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THE WISE WOMAN 



THE WISE WOMAN 



a yara&U 



By GEORGE MAC DONALD 



>.i^S,^ 




STRAHAN & CO, PUBLISHERS 

34. PATERNOSTER KOW, LONDON 

i!7S 



^Sl . a . bo. 



CHAPTER I. 



T^HERE was a certain country where things 
used to go rather oddly. For instance, you 
could never tell whether it was going to rain or 
hail, or whether or not the milk was going to turn 
sour. It was impossible to say whether the next 
baby would be a boy or a girl, or, even after he 
was a week old, whether he would wake sweet- 
tempered or cross. 

In strict accordance with the peculiar nature of 
this, country of uncertainties, it came to pass one 
day that, in the midst of a shower of rain that 
might well be called golden, seeing the sun, shining 

B 



THE WISE WOMAN. 



as it fell, turned all its drops into molten topazes, 
and every drop was good for a grain of golden 
corn, or a yellow cowslip, or a buttercup, or a dan- 
delion at least, — ^while this splendid rain was 
falling, I say, with a musical patter upon the great 
leaves of the horse-chestnuts, which hung like 
Vandyke, collars about the necks of the creamy, 
red-spotted blossoms, and on the leaves of the syca- 
mores, looking as if they had blood in their veins, 
and on a multitude of flowers, of which some stood 
up and boldly held out their cups to catch their 
share, while others cowered down laughing under 
the soft patting blows of the heavy warm drops ; — 
while this lovely rain was washing all the air clean 
from the motes, and the bad odours, and the poison- 
seeds that had escaped from their prisons during 
the long drought — ^while it fell, splashing, and 
sparkling, with a hum, and a rush, and a soft 
clashing — ^but stop — I am stealing, I find, and not 



A PARABLE. 



that only, but with clumsy hands spoiling what I 
steal : — 

'^ O Rain, with your dull two-fold sound, 
The clash hard-by, and the murmur all round ; *' 

— there ! take it, Mr. Coleridge ; — ^while, as I was 
saying, the lovely little rivers whose fountains are 
the clouds, and which cut their own channels 
through the air, and make sweet noises rubbing 
against their banks as they hurry down and down, 
until at length they are pulled up on a sudden, 
with a musical plash, in the very heart of an 
odorous flower, that first gasps and then sighs up a 
blissful scent, or on the bald head of a stone that 
never says thank you ; — while the very sheep felt it 
blessing them, though it could never reach their 
skins through the depth of their long wool, and the 
veriest hedgehog — I mean the one with the longest 
spikes — came and spiked himself out to impale as 
many of the drops as he could ; — while the rain 



THE WISE WOMAN. 



was thus falling, and the leaves, and the flowers^ 
and the sheep, and the cattle, and the hedgehog, 
were all busily receiving the golden rain, something 
happened. It was not a great battle, nor an earth- 
quake, nor a coronation, but something more 
important than all those put together : a baby-girl 
was bom — and her father was a king, and her 
mother was a queen, and her uncles and aunts were 
princes and princesses, and her first cousins were 
dukes and duchesses, and not one of her second 
cousins was less than a marquis or marchioness; 
or of her third cousins less than an earl or 
countess, and below a countess they did not care to 
count So the little girl was Somebody ; and yet 
for all that, strange to say, the first thing she did 
was to cry ! I told you it was a strange country. 

As she grew up, everybody about her did his 
best to convince her that she was Somebody, and 
the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that 



A PARABLE. 



she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, 
and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first- 
bom, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible 
idea and principle that slu was Somebody, And far 
be it from me to deny it ! I will even go so far as 
to assert that in this odd country there was a huge 
number of Somebodies. Indeed, it was one of its 
oddities that every boy and girl in it was rather too 
ready to think he or she was Somebody ; and the 
worst of it was that the princess never thought of 
there being more than one Somebody — and that 
was herself. 

Far away to the north in the same country, on 
the side of a bleak hill, where a horse-chestnut or a 
sycamore was never seen, where were no meadows 
rich with buttercups, only steep, rough, breezy 
slopes, covered with dry prickly furze and its 
flowers of red gold, or moister, softer broom with its 
flowers of yellow gold, and great sweeps of purple 



THE WISE WOMAN. 



heather, mixed with bilberries, and crowberries, 
and cranberries — no, I am all wrong — there was 
nothing out yet but a few furze blossoms, the rest 
were all waiting behind their doors till they were 
called ; — and no full, slow-gliding river with 
meadow-sweet along its oozy banks, only a little 
brook here and there, that dashed past without a 
moment to say " How do you do ? " — there — would 
you believe it? — while the same cloud that was 
dropping down golden rain all about the queen's 
new baby, was dashing huge fierce handfuls of hail 
upon the hills, with such force that they flew 
spinning off the rocks and stones, went burrowing 
in the sheep's wool, stung the cheeks and chin of 
the shepherd with their sharp spiteful little blows, 
and made his dog wink and whine as they bounded 
off his hard wise head and long sagacious nose ; — 
only, when they dropped plump down the chimney, 
and fell hissing in the little fire, they caught it 



A PARABLE. 



then, for the clever little fire soon sent them up the 
chimney again, a good deal swollen, and harmless 
enough for a while ! — there — what do you think ? — 
among the hailstones, and the heather, and the 
cold mountain air, another little girl was bom, 
whom the shepherd her father, and the shepherdess 
her mother, and a good many of her kindred too, 
thought Somebody. She had not an uncle or an 
aunt that was less than a shepherd or dairymaid, 
not a cousin that was less than a farm-labourer, not 
a second cousin that was less than a grocer, and 
they did not count farther. And yet, would you 
believe it ? she too cried the very first thing. It 
zvas an odd country ! And what is still more 
surprising, th^ shepherd and shepherdess and the 
dairymaids and the labourers were not a bit wiser 
than the king and the queen and the dukes and the 
marquises and tlie earls, for they too, one and all, 
so constantly taught the little woman that she was 



8 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Somebody, that she also forgot that there were a 
great many more Somebodies besides herself in the 
world. 

It was, indeed, a peculiar country — very different 
from ours — so different that my reader must not be 
too much surprised when I add the amazing fact, 
that most of its inhabitants, instead of enjoying the 
things they had, were always wanting the things 
they had not, often even the things it was least 
likely they ever could have. The grown men and 
women being like this, there is no reason to be 
further astonished that the Princess Rosamond — 
the name her parents gave her because it means 
Rose of the World — should grow up like them, 
wanting everything she could and everything she 
couldn't have. The things she could have were a 
great many too many, for her foolish parents 
always gave her what they could ; but still there 
remained a few things they couldn't give her, for 



A PARABLE. 



they were only a common king and queen. They 
could and did give her a lighted candle when she 
cried for it, and managed by much care that she 
should not burn her fingers or set her frock on fire ; 
but when she cried for the moon, that they could 
not give her. They did the worst thing possible 
instead, however, for they pretended to do what 
they could not: — they got her a thin disc of 
brilliantly polished silver, as near the size of the 
moon as they could agree upon, and for a time she 
was delighted. 

But, unfortunately, one evening she made the 
discovery that her moon was a little peculiar, 
inasmuch as she could not shine in the dark. Her 
nurse happened to snuff out the candles as she was 
playing with it, and instantly came a shriek of rage, 
for her moon had vanished. Presently, through the 
opening of the curtains, she caught sight of the 
real moon, far away in the sky, and shining quite 



lO THK WISE WOMAN. 



calmly, as if she had been there all the time ; and 
her rage increased to such a degree that if it had 
not passed off in a fit, I do not know what might 
have come of it. 

As she grew up it was still the same — with this 
difference, that not only must she have everything, 
but she got tired of everything almost as soon as 
she had it. There was an accumulation of things 
in her nursery, and schoolroom, and bedroom that 
was perfectly appalling. Her mother's wardrobes 
were almost useless to her, so packed were they 
with things of which she never took any notice. 
When she was five years old, they gave her a 
splendid gold repeater, so close set with diamonds 
and rubies that the back was just one crust of 
gems : in one of her little tempers as they called 
her hideously ugly rages, she dashed it against the 
back of the chimney, after which it never gave a 
single tick, and some of the diamonds went to the 



A PARABLE. II 



ash-pit. As she grew older still, she became fond 
of animals, not in a way that brought them much 
pleasure, or herself much satisfaction. Wheii 
angry, she would beat them and try to pull them to 
pieces, and as soon as she became a little used to 
them, would neglect them altogether. Then,' if 
they could, they would run away, and she was 
furious. Some white mice, which she had ceased 
feeding altogether, did so, and soon the palace was 
swarming with white mice. Their red eyes might 
be seen glowing, and their white skins gleaming, 
in every dark comer; but when it came to the 
king's finding a nest of them in his second-best 
crown, he was angry, and ordered them to be 
drowned. The princess heard of it, however, and 
raised such a clamour that there they were left 
until they should run away of themselves, and the 
poor king had to wear his best crown every day 
till then. Nothing that was the princess's property. 



12 THE WISE WOMAN. 



whether she cared for it or not, was to be meddled 
with. 

Of course as she grew, she grew worse, for she 
never tried to grow better. She became more and 
more peevish and fretful every day — dissatisfied 
not only with what she had, but with all that was 
around her, and constantly wishing things in 
general to be different. She found fault with 
everything and everybody and all that happened, 
and grew more and more disagreeable to everyone 
who had to do with her. At last, when she had 
nearly killed her nurse, and had all but succeeded 
in hanging herself, and was miserable from morning 
to night, her parents thought it time to do 
something. 

A long way from the palace, in the heart of a 
deep wood of pine-trees, lived a wise woman. In 
some countries she would have been called a witch, 
but that would have been a mistake, for she never 



A PARABLE. 1 3 



did anything wicked, and had more power than any 
witch could have. As her fame was spread 
through all the country, the king heard of her, and, 
thinking she might perhaps be able to suggest 
something, sent for her. In the dead of the night, 
lest the princess should know it, the king's 
messenger brought into the palace a tall woman, 
muffled from head to foot in a cloak of black cloth. 
In the presence of both their majesties, the king, to 
do her honour, requested her to sit, but she 
declined, and stood waiting to hear what they had 
to say. Nor had she to wait long, for almost 
instantly they began to tell her the dreadful trouble 
they were in with their only child — first the king 
talking, then the queen interposing with some yet 
more dreadful fact, and at times both letting out 
a torrent of words together, so anxious were they 
to show the wise woman that their perplexity 
was real, and their daughter a very terrible one 



14 THE WISE WOMAN. 

For a long while there appeared no sign of 
approaching pause. But the wise woman stood 
patiently folded in her black cloak, and listened 
without word or motion. At length silence fell, for 
•they had talked themselves tired, and could not 
think of anything more to add to the list of their 
.child's enormities. 

. After a minute, the wise woman unfolded her 
.arms, and her cloak dropping open in front, dis- 
closed a garment made of a strange stuff, which an 
.old poet who knew her well has thus described: 

All lilly white, withoutten spot or pride, 
That seemd like silke and silver woven neare ; 
But neither silke nor silver therein did appeare. 

"How very badly you have treated her!" said 
the wise woman : " Poor child." 

"What! Treated her badly?" gasped the king. 

" She IS a very wicked child," said the queen ; 
and both glared with indignation. 



A PARABLE. I 5 



• 



"Yes, indeed," returned the wise woman; "she is 
very naughty indeed, and that she must be made 
to feel; but it is half your fault too." 

"What!" stammered the king. "Haven't we 
given her every mortal thing she wanted ?" 

"Surely," said the wise woman. "What else 
could have all but killed her! You should have 
given her a few things of the other sort But you 
are far too dull to understand me." 

"You are very polite!" remarked the king, with 
royal sarcasm on his thin, straight lips. 

The wise woman made no answer beyond a 
deep sigh, and the king and queen sat silent also 
in their anger, glaring at the wise woman. The 
silence lasted again for a minute, and then the 
wise woman folded her cloak around her, and her 
shining garment vanished like the moon when a 
great cloud comes over her. Yet another minute 
passed and the silence endured, for the smouldering 



1 6 THE WISE WOMAN. 



wrath of the king and queen choked tlie channels 
of their speech. Then the wise woman turned her 
back on them, and so stood. At this the rage of 
the king broke forth, and he cried to the queen, 
stammering in his fierceness : 

"How should such an old hag as that teach 
Rosamond good manners } She knows nothing of 
them herself! Look how she stands! Actually 
with her back to us ! " 

At the word the wise woman walked from the 
room. The great folding doors fell to behind her, 
and the same moment the king and queen were 
quarrelling like apes as to which of them was to 
blame for her departure. Before their altercation 
was over, for it lasted till the early morning, in 
rushed Rosamond, clutching in her hands a poor 
little white rabbit of which she was Very fond, and 
from which, only because it would not come to her 
when she called it, she was pulling handfuls of fur, 



A PARABLE. I 7 



In the attempt to tear the squealing, pink-eared, 
red-eyed thing to pieces. 

•'Rosa! Rosaw^w^/" cried the queen; — ^where- 
upon Rosamond threw the rabbit in her mother's 
face. The king started up in a fury, and ran to 
seize her. She darted shrieking from the room. 
The king rushed after her, but, to his amazement, 
she was nowhere to be seen; the huge hall was 
empty. — ^No; just outside the door, close to the 
threshold, with her back to it, sat the figure of the 
wise woman, muffled in her dark cloak, with her 
head bowed over her knees. As the king stood 
looking at her she rose slowly, crossed the hall, 
and walked away down the marble staircase. The 
king called to her, but she never turned her head, 
or gave the least sign that she heard him. So 
quietly did she pass down the wide marble stair, 
that the king was all but persuaded he had seen 
only a shadow gliding across the white steps. 



1 8 THE WISE WOMAN. 



For the princess, she was nowhere to be found 
The queen went into hysterics, and the rabbit ran 
away. The king sent out messengers, but in vain. 

In a short time the palace was quiet — as quiet as 
it used to be before the princess was born. The 
king and queen cried a little now and then, for the 
hearts of parents were in that country strangely 
fashioned ;— and yet I am afraid the first move- 
ment of those very hearts would jiave been a jump of 
terror if the c^rs above them had .heard the voice of 
Rosamond in one of the corridors^. As for the rest 
of the household, they could not have made up a 
single tear, amongst them. They thought, what- 
ever it might be for the princess, it was for every 
one else the best thing that could have happened ; 
and as to what had become of her, if their heads 
were puzzled, their hearts took no interest in the 
question. The Lord Chancellor alone had an idea 
about it, but he was far too wise to utter it 



CHAPTER n. 



T^HE fact, as is plain, was, that the princess had 
disappeared in the folds of the wise woman's 
cloak : when she rushed from the room, the wise 
woman caught her to her bosom and flung the 
black garment around her. The princess struggled 
wildly, for she was in fierce terror, and screamed as 
loud as choking fright would permit her ; but her 
father, standing in the door, and looking down 
upon the wise woman, saw never a movement of 
the cloak, so tight was she held by her captor. 
He was indeed aware of a most angry crying, 
which reminded him of his daughter, but it sounded 



20 THE WISE WOMAN. 



to him so far away, that he took it for the passion 
of some child in the street, outside the palace- 
gates. Hence, unchallenged, the wise woman 
carried the princess down the marble-stairs, out at 
the palace-door, down a great flight of steps 
outside, across a paved court, through the brazen 
gates, along half-roused streets where people were 
opening their shops, through the huge gates of the 
city, and out into the wide road vanishing north- 
wards — ^the princess struggling and screaming all 
the time, and the wise woman holding her tight 
When at length she was too tired to struggle or 
scream any more, the wise woman unfolded her 
cloak and set her down, and the princess saw the 
light and opened her swollen eyelids. There was 

« 

nothing in sight that she had ever seen before! 
City and palace had disappeared. They were 
upon a wide road going straight on, with a ditch 
on each side of it, that, behind them, widened into 



A PARABLE. 21 



the great moat surrounding the city. She cast up 
a terrified look into the wise woman's face that 
gazed down upon her gravely and kindly. Now 
the princess did not in the least understand kind- 
ness. She always took it for a sign either of 
partiality or fear. So when the wise woman looked 
kindly upon her, she rushed at her, butting with her 
head like a ram. But the folds of the cloak had 
closed around the wise woman, and when the 
princess ran against it, she found it hard as the 
cloak of a bronze statue, and fell back upon the 
road with a great bruise on her head. The wise 
woman lifted her again, and put her once more 
under the cloak, where she fell asleep, and where 
she awoke again only to find that she was still 
being carried on and on. 

When at length the wise woman again stopped 
and set her down, she saw around her a bright 
moonlit night, on a wide heath, solitary and 



22 THE WISE WOMAN. 



houseless. Here she felt more frightened than 
beibroi nor was her terror assuaged when, looking 
up)' she' saw a stem, immovable countenance, with 
cold eyes fixedly regarding her. All she knew of 
the world being derived from nursery tales, she 
concluded that the wise woman was an ogress 
carrying her home to eat her. 

I have already said that the princess was, at this 
time of her life, such a low-minded creature, that 
severity had greater influence over her than kind- 
ness. She understood terror better far than 
tenderness. When the wise woman looked at her 
thus, she fell on her knees and held up her hands 
to her, crying, 

" Oh, don't eat me ! don't eat me ! " 
Now this being the best slie could do, it was a 
sign she was a low creature. Think of it — to kick 
at kindness and kneel from terror ! But the stern- 
ness on the face of the wise woman came from the 



A PARABLE. 2} 



same heart and the same feeling as the kindness 
that had shone from it before : the only thing that 
could s&ve the princess from her hatefulness was 
tliat she should be made to mind somebody else 
than her own miserable Somebody. 

Without saying a word, the wise woman reached 
down her hand, took one of Rosamond's, and, 
lifting her to her feet, led her along through the 
moonlight Every now and then a gush of 
obstinacy would well up in the heart of the prin- 
cess, and she would give a great ill-tempered tug, 
and pull her hand away. But then the wise 
woman would gaze down upon her with such a 
look, that she instantly sought again the hand she 
had rejected — in pure terror lest she should be 
eaten upon the spot And so they would walk on 
again, and when the wind blew the folds of the 
cloak against the prificess, she found them soft as 
her mother's camel-hair shawL 



24 IHK WISE WOMAN. 



After a Kttle while the wise woman began to 
sing to her, and the princess could not help listen- 
ing, for the soft wind amongst the low dry bushes 
of the heath, the rustle of their own steps, and the 
trailing of the wise woman's cloak, were the only 
sounds beside. 

And this is the song she sang :— 

Out in the cold, 

With a thin-worn fold 

Of withered gold 

Around her rolled, 
Hangs in the air the weary moon. 

She is old, old, old ; 

And her bones all cold, 

And her tales all told, 

And her things all sold. 
And she has no breath to croon. 

Like a castaway clout, 

She is quite shut out ! 

She might call and shout. 

But no one about 
Would ever call back — ^Who's there ? 

There is never a hut. 

Not a door to shut. 

Not a footpath or rut. 

Long road or short cut. 
Leading to anywhere I 



A PARABLE. 25 



She is all alone 

Like a dog-picked bone, 

The poor old crone ! 

She fain would groan. 
But she cannot find the breath. 

She once had a fire, 

But she built it no higher, 

And only sat nigher 

Till she saw it expire; 
And now she is cold as death. 

She never will smile 

All the lonesome while. 

Oh, the mile after mile, 

And never a stile ! 
And never a tree or a stone I 

She has not a tear : 

Afar and anear 

It is all so drear, 

But she does not care, 
Her heart is as dry as a bone. 

None to come near her ! 

No one to cheer her ! 

No one to jeer her I 

No one to hear her I 
Not a thing to lift and hold t 

She is always awake. 

But her heart will not break; 

She can only quake, 

Shiver and shake — 
The old woman is very cold. 



As strange as the song, was the crooning, wailing 



26 THE WISE WOMAN. 



•tune that the wise woman sung. At the first note 
^most, you would have thought * she wanted to 
frighten the princess, and so indeed she did. For 
-when people will be naughty, they have to be 
tfrightened, and they are not expected to like it 
The princess grew angry, pulled her hand away, 
and cried, — 

" Yoti are the ugly old woman. I hate you." 
Therewith she stood still; expecting the w^ise 
woman to stop also, perhaps coax her to go on : 
if she did, she was determined ndt to move a step. 
JBut the wise woman never even looked about ; she 
liept walking on steadily, the same pace as before. 
Little Obstinate thought for certain she would 
turn, for she regarded herself as much too precious 
to be left behind ; but on and on the wise woman 
went, until she had vanished away in the dim moon- 
light Then all at once the princess perceived 
that she was left alone with the rtiodn — ^looking 



A PARABLE. 27 



down on her from the height of her loneliness. 
She was horribly frightened, and began to run 
after the wise woman, calling aloud. But the song 
she had just heard came back to the sound of her 
own running feet — * 

All all alone 

Like a dog-picked bone ! 

end again. 

She might call and shont, 
And no one about 
Wonld ever call back — Who's there ? 

and she screamed as she ran. How she wished 
she knew the old woman's name, that she might 
call it after her through the moonlight ! 

But the wise woman had in truth heard the first 
sound of her running feet, and stopped and turned, 
waiting. What with running and crying, however, 
and a fall or two as she ran, the princess never saw 
her until she fell right into her arms — and the 
same moment into a fresh rage; for as soon as 
any trouble was over, the princess was always 



28 THE WISE WOMAN. 



ready to begin another. The wise woman there- 
fore pushed her away, and walked on, while the 
princess ran scolding and storming after her. She 
had to run till, from very fatigue, her rudeness 
ceased. Her heart gave way, she burst into tears, 
and ran on silently weeping. 

A minute more and the wise woman stooped, 
and lifting her in her arms, folded her cloak around 
her. Instantly she fell asleep, and slept as soft and 
as soundly as if she had been in her own bed. 
She slept till the moon went down ; she slept till 
the sun rose up ; she slept till he climbed the top- 
most sky ; she slept till he went down again, and 
the poor old moon came peaking and peering out 
once more; and all that time the wise woman 
went walking on and on very fast And now they 
had reached a spot where a few fir-trees came to 
meet them through the moonlight 

At the same time the princess awaked, and 



A PARABiE. 29 



popping her head out between the folds of the 
wise woman's cloak — a very ugly little owlet she 
looked — saw that they were entering the wood. 
Now there is something awful about every wood, 
especially in the moonlight, and perhaps a fir-wood 
is more awful than other woods : for one thing, it 
lets a little more light through, rendering the dark- 
ness a little more visible, as it were ; and then the 
trees go stretching away up towards the moon, and 
look as if they cared nothing about the creatures 
below them — not like the broad trees with soft 
wide leaves that, in the darkness even, look 
sheltering. So the princess is not to be blamed 
that she was very much frightened. She is hardly 
to be blamed either that, assured the wise woman 
was an ogress carrying her to her castle to eat her 
up, she began again to kick and scream violently, 
as those of my readers who are of the same sort as 
herself, will consider the right and natural thing to 



30 THE WISE WOMAN. 



do. The wrong in her was this — ^that she had led 
such a bad life, that she did not know a good 
woman when she saw her — took her for one li!;?e 
herself, even after she had slept in her arms. 

Immediately the wise woman set her down, and^ 
walking on, within a few paces vanished among the 
trees. Then the cries of the princess rent the aSr, 
but the fir-trees never heeded her ; not one of their 
hard little needles gave a single shiver for all the 
noise she made. But there were creatures in the 
forest who were soon quite as much interested in 
her cries as the fir-trees were indifferent to them. 
They began to harken and howl and snuff about^ 
and run hither and thither, and grin with their 
white teeth, and light up the green lamps in their 
€yes. In a minute or two a whole army of wolves 
and hyaenas were rushing from all quarters through 
the pillar-like stems of the fir-trees, to the place 
where she stood calling them without knowing it 



A PAR.\BIJt. 31 



The noise she made herself, however, prevented her 
from hearing either their howls or the soft pattering 
of their many trampling feet as they bounded over' 
the fallen fir-needles and cones. 

One huge old wolf had cutsped the rest — not 
that he could run faster, but that from experience- 
he could more exactly judge whence the cries came,, 
and as he shot through the wood, she caught sight 
at last of his lamping eyes, coming swiftly nearer* 
and nearer. Terror silenced her. She stood with-. 
her mouth open as if she were going to eat the: 
wolf, but she had no breath to scream with, and 
her tongue curled up in her mouth like a withered 
and frozen leaf. She could do nothing but stare at 
tlie coming monster. And now he was taking a. 
few shorter bounds, measuring the distance for the 
one final leap that should bring him upon her, 
when out stepped the wise woman from behind the 
very tree by which she had set the princess down^. 



32 THE WISE WOMAN. 



caught the wolf by the throat half-way in his last 
springy shook him once, and threw him from her 
dead* Then she turned towards the princess, who 
flung herself into her arms, and was instantly 
lapped in the folds of her cloak. 

But now the huge army of wolves and hyaenas 
had rushed like a sea around them, whose waves 
leaped with hoarse roar and hollow yell up against 
the wise woman. But she, like a strong stately 
vessel, moved unhurt through the midst of them. 
Ever as they leaped against her cloak, they 
dropped and slunk away back through the crowd. 
Others ever succeeded, and ever in their turn fell 
and drew back confounded. For some time she 
walked on attended and assailed on all sides by the 
howling pack. Suddenly they turned and swept 
away, vanishing in the depths of the forest She 
neither slackened nor hastened her step, but went 
walking on as before. 



A PARABLE. 33 



In a little while she unfolded her cloak, md let 
the princess look out. The firs had ceased, and 
they were on a lofty height of moorland, stony, and 
bare, and dry, with tufts of heather and a few small 
plants here and there. About the heath, on every 
side, lay the forest, looking in the moonlight like a 

I 

cloud ; and above the forest, like the shaven crown 
of a monk, rose the bare moor over which they 
were walking. Presently, a little way in front of 
them, the princess espied a white-washed cottage, 
gleaming in the moon. As they came nearer, she 
saw that the roof was covered with thatch, over 
which the moss had grown green. It was a very 
simple, humble place, not in the least terrible to 
look at, and yet, as soon as she saw it, her fear 
again awoke, and always as soon as her fear awoke, 
the trust of the princess fell into a dead sleep. 
Foolish and useless as she might by this time have 
known it, she once more began kicking and 

D 



34 THE WISE WOMAN. 



screaming, whereupon yet once more the wise 
woman set her down on the heath, a few yards 
from the back of the cottage, and saying only, " No 
one ever gets into my house who does not knock 
at the door and ask to come in," disappeared round 
the comer of the cottage, leaving the princess 
alone with the moon — ^two white faces in the cone 
of the night 



CHAPTER IIL 



T^HE moon stared at the princess, and the 
princess stared at the moon; but the moon 
had the best of it, and the princess began to cry. 
And now the question was between the moon and 
the cottage. The princess thought she knew the 
worst of the moon, and she knew nothing at all 
about the cottage, therefore she would stay with the 
moon. Strange, was it not, that she should have 
been so long with the wise woman and yet know 
nothing about that cottage? As for the moon, 
she did not by any means know the worst of her, 
or even that, if she were to fall asleep where she 



36 THE WISE WOMAN. 



could find her, the old witch would certainly do 
her best to twist her face. 

But she had scarcely sat a moment longer before 
she was assailed by all sorts of fresh fears. First 
of all, the soft wind blowing gently through the 
dry stalks of the heather and its thousands of little 
bells raised a sweet rustling, which the princess 
took for the hissing of serpents, for you know she 
had been naughty for so long that she could not in 
a great many things tell the good from the bad. 
Then nobody could deny that there, all round about 
the heath, like a ring of darkness, lay the gloomy 
fir-wood, and the princess knew what it was full of, 
and every now and then she thought she heard the 
howling of its wolves and hyaenas. And who 
could tell but some of them might break from 
their covert and sweep like a shadow across the 

heath .^ Indeed, it was not once nor twice that for a 
moment she was fully persuaded she saw a great 



A PARABLE. 37 



beast coming leaping and bounding through the 
moonlight, to have her all to himself. She did not 
know that not a single evil creature dared set foot 
on that heath, or that, if one should do so, it would 
that instant wither up and cease. If an army of 
them had rushed to invade it, it would have melted 
away on the edge of it, and ceased like a dying 
wave. — She even imagined that the moon was 
slowly coming nearer and nearer down the sky, to 
take her and freeze her to death in her arms. The 
wise woman, too, she felt sure, although her cottage 
looked asleep, was watching her at some little 
window. In this, however, she would have been 
quite right if she had only imagined enough — 
namely, that the wise woman was watching over 
her from the little window. But after all, somehow, 
the thought of the wise woman was less frightful 
than that of any of her other terrors, and at length 
she began to wonder whether it might not turn out 



€ 



/ 

38 THE WISE WOMAN. 



that she was no ogress, but only a rude, ill-bred, 
tyrannical, yet on the whole not altogether ill- 
meaning person. Hardly had the possibility arisen 
in her mind, before she was on her feet: if the 
woman was anytliing short of an ogress, her 
cottage must be better than that horrible loneliness, 
with nothing in all the world but a stare; and even 
an ogress had at least the shape and look of a 
human being. 

She darted round the end of the cottage to find 
the front But to her surprise she came only to 
another back, for no door was to be seen. She 
tried the further end, but still no door ! She must 
have passed it as she ran — ^butno — neither in gable 
nor in side was any to be found ! 

A cottage without a door ! — ^she rushed at it in a 
rage and kicked at the wall with her feet But the 
wall was hard as iron, and hurt her sadly through 
her gay silken slippers. She threw herself on the 



A PARABLE. 39 



heath, which came up to the walls of the cottage 
on every side, and roared and screamed with rage. 
Suddenly, however, she remembered how her 
screaming had brought the horde of wolves and 
hyaenas about her in the forest, and, ceasing at 
once, lay still, gazing yet again at the moon. And 
then came the thought of her parents in the palace 
at home. In her mind's eye she saw her mother 
sitting at her embroidery with the tears dropping 
upon it, and her father staring into the fire as if he 
were looking for her in its glowing caverns. It is 
• true that if they had both been in tears by her side 
because of her naughtiness, she would not have 
cared a straw ; but now her own forlorn condition 
somehow helped her to understand their grief at 
having lost her, and not only a great longing to be 
back in her comfortable home, but a feeble flutter 
of genuine love for her parents awoke in her heart 
as well, and she burst into real tears — ^soft. 



40 THS WISE WOMAN. 



mournful tears— very different from those of rage 
and disappointment to which she was so much 
used And another very remarkable thing was 
that the moment she began to love her father and 
mother, she began to wish to see the wise woman 
again. The idea of her being an ogress vanished 
utterly, and she thought of her only as one to take 
her in from the moon, and the loneliness, and the 
terrors of the forest-haunted heath, and hide her in 
a cottage with not even a door for the horrid 
wolves to howl against 

But the old woman — as the princess called her, 
not knowing that her real name was the Wise 
Woman — ^had told her that she must knock at the 
door : how was she to do that when there was no 
door.^ But again she bethought herself — that, if 
she could not do all she was told, she could at least 
do a part of it : if she could not knock at the door, 
she could at least knock — say on the wall, for there 



A PARABLE. 4 I 



was nothing else to knock upon — and perhaps the 
old woman would hear her and lift her in by some 
window. Thereupon she rose at once to her feet, 
and picking up a stone, began to knock on the 
wall with it A loud noise was the result, and she 
found she was knocking on the very door itself. 
For a moment she feared the old woman would 
be offended, but the next there came a voice 
saying, 

" Who IS there ? " 

The princess answered, 

" Please, old woman, I did not mean to knock so 
loud" 

To this there came no reply. 

Then the princess knocked again, this time with 
her knuckles, and the voice came again, saying, 

"Who is there?" 

And the princess answered, 

" Rosamond." 



42 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Then a second time there was silence. But 
the princess soon ventured to knock a third time. 

" What do you want ? " said the voice. 

" Oh, please, let me in ! " said the princess. " The 
moon will keep staring at me; and I hear the 
wolves in the wood." 

Then the door opened, and the princess entered. 
She looked all around, but saw nothing of the wi^ 
woman. 

It was a single bare little room, with a white 
deal table, and a few old wooden chairs, a fire of 
fir-wood on the hearth, the smoke of which smelt 
sweet, and a patch of thick-growing heath in one 
corner. Poor as it was, compared to the grand 
place Rosamond had left, she felt no little satisfac- 
tion as she shut the door, and looked around her. 
And what with the sufferings and terrors she had 
left outside, the new kind of tears she had shed, 
the love she had begun to feel for her parents, and 



A PARABLE. 43 



the trust she had begun to place in the wise 
woman, it seemed to her as if her soul had grown 
larger of a sudden, and she had left the days of 
her childishness and naughtiness far behind her. 
People are so ready to think themselves changed 
when it is only their mood that is changed. 
Those who are good-tempered because it is a fine 
day, will be ill-tempered when it rains : their selves 
are just the same both days ; only in the one case 
the fine weather has got into them, in the other tlie 
rainy. Rosamond, as she sat warming herself by 
the glow of the peat-fire, turning over in her mind 
all that had passed, and feeling how pleasant the 
change in her feelings was, began by degrees to 
think how very good she had grown, and how very 
good she was to have grown good, and how 
extremely good she must always have been that 
she was able to grow so very good as she now felt 
she had grown; and she became so absorbed in 



44 1*H£ WISE WOMAN. 



her self-admiration as never to notice either that 
the fire was dying, or that ^ heap of fir-cones lay 
in a comer near it Suddenly, a great wind came 
roaring down the chimney, and scattered the ashes 
about the floor; a tremendous rain followed, and 
fell hissing on the embers; the moon was swal- 
lowed up, and there was darkness all about her. 
Then a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of 
thunder, so terrified the princess, that she cried 
aloud for the old woman, but there came no 
answer to her cry. 

Then in her terror the princess grew angry, and 
saying to herself, "She must be somewhere in the 
place, else who was there to open the door to me ?** 
began to shout and yell, and call the wise woman 
all the bad names she had been in the habit of 
throwing at her nurses. But there came not a 
single sound in reply. 

Strange to say, the princess never thought of 



A PARABLE. 45 



telling herself now how naughty she was, though 
that would surely have been reasonable. On the 
contrary, she thought she had a perfect right to be 
suigry, for was she not most desperately ill-used — 
and a princess too ? But the wind howled on, and 
the rain kept pouring down the chimney, and 
every now and then the lightning burst out, and 
the thunder rushed after it, as if the great lumber- 
ing sound could ever think to catch up with the 
swift light ! 

At length the princess had again grown so 
angry, frightened, and miserable, all together, that 
she jumped up and hurried about the cottage with 
outstretched arms, trying to find the wise woman. 
But being in a bad temper always makes people 
stupid, and presently she struck her forehead such 
a blow against something — ^she thought herself it 
felt like the old woman's cloak — ^that she fell back 
— not on the floor though, but on the patch of 



46 THE WISE WOMAN. 



heather, which felt as soft and pleasant as any bed 
in the palace. There, worn out with weeping and 
rage, she soon fell fast asleep. 

She dreamed that she was the old cold woman 
up in the sky, with no home and no friends, and no 
nothing at all, not even a pocket ; wandering, 
wandering for ever over a desert of blue sand, 
nev^r to get to anywhere, and never to lie down or 
die. It was no use stopping to look about her, for 
what had she to do but for ever look about her as 
she went on and on and on — never seeing anything, 
and never expecting to see anything ! The only 
shadow of a hope she had was, that she might by 
slow degrees grow thinner and thinner, until at last 
she wore away to nothing at all ; only, alas ! she 
could not detect the least sign that she had yet 
begun to grow thinner. The hopelessness grew at 
length so unendurable that she woke with a start 
Seeing the face of the wise woman bending over 




A PARABLE. 47 



her, she threw her arms around her neck and held 
up her mouth to be kissed. And the kiss of the 
wise woman was like the rose-gardens of Da- 
mascus. 



CHAPTER IV. 

nPHE wise woman lifted the princess tenderly, 
and washed and dressed her far more care- 
fully than even her nurse. Then she set her down 
by the fire, and prepared her breakfast She was 
very hungry, and the bread and milk as good as it 
could be, so that she thought she had never in her 
life eaten anything nicer. Nevertheless, as soon as 
she began to have enough, she said to herself, — 

" Ha ! I see how it is ! The old woman wants to 
fatten me ! That is why she gives me such nice 
creamy milk ! She doesn't kill me now because she's 
going to kill me then! She is an ogress after all ! ** 



A PARABLE. 49 



Thereupon she laid down her spoon, and would 
not eat another mouthful — only followed the basin 
with longing looks as the wise woman carried it 
away. 

When she stopped eating, her hostess knew 
exactly what she was thinking ; but it was one 
thing to understand the princess, and quite another 
to make the princess understand her : that would 
require time. For the present she took no notice, 
but went about the affairs of the house, sweeping 
the floor, brushing down the cobwebs, cleaning the 
hearth, dusting the table and chairs, and watering 
the bed to keep it fresh and alive — for she never 
had more than one guest at a time, and never 
would allow that guest to go to sleep upon any- 
thing that had no life in it All the time she 
was thus busied, she spoke not a word to the 
princess, which, with the princess, went to confirm 
her notion of her purposes. But whatever she 



50 THE WISE WOMAN. 



might have said would have been only perverted by 
the princess into yet stronger proof of her evil 
designs, for a fancy in her own head would out- 
weigh any multitude of facts in another's. She 
kept staring at the fire, and never looked round to 
see what the wise woman might be doing. 

By and by she came close up to the back of her 
chair, and said, "Rosamond !" 

But the princess had fallen into one of her sulky 
moods, and shut herself up with her own ugly 
Somebody; so she never looked round, or even 
answered the wise woman. 

"Rosamond," she repeated, "I am going out If 
you are a good girl, that is, if you do as I tell 
you, I will carry you back to your father and 
mother the moment I return.' 

The princess did not take the least notice. 

" Look at me, Rosamond," said the wise 
woman. 




A PARABLE. 5 I 



But Rosamond never moved — never even shrug- 
ged her shoulders — ^perhaps because they were 
already up to her ears and could go no further. 

"I want to help you to do what I tell you," said 
the wise woman. "Look at me." 

Still Rosamond was motionless and silent, 
saying only to herself, " I know what she*s after ! 
She wants to show me her horrid teeth. But I 
won't look. Fm not going to be frightened out of 
my senses to please her." 

"You had better look, Rosamond. Have you 
forgotten how you kissed me this morning }*' 

But Rosamond now regarded that little throb of 
affection as a momentary weakness into which the 
deceitful ogress had betrayed her, and almost de- 
spised herself for it She was one of those who the 
more they are coaxed are the more disagreeable. 
For such the wise woman had an awful punishment, 
but she remembered that the princess had been 



52 THE WISE WOMAN. 



very ill brought up, and therefore wished to try her 
with all gentleness first 

She stood silent for a moment, to see what 
effect her words might have. But Rosamond only 
said to herself, — 

"She wants to fatten and eat me." 

And it was such a little while since she had 
looked into the wise woman's loving eyes, thrown 
her arms round her neck, and kissed her ! 

"Well," said the wise woman, gently, after 
pausing as long as it seemed possible she might 
bethink herself, "I must tell you then without; 
only whoever listens with her back turned, listens 
but half and gets but half the help." 

" She wants to fatten me," said the princess. 

" You must keep the cottage tidy while I am out 
When I come back, I must see the fire bright, the 
hearth swept, and the kettle boiling ; no dust on 
the table or chairs, the windows clear, the floor 



A PARABLE. 53 



clean, and the heather in blossom — ^which last 
comes of sprinkling it with water three times a-day. 
When you are hungry, put your hand into that 
hole in the wall, and you will find a meal.'* 

** She wants to fatten me," said the princess. 

" But on no account leave the house till I come 
back," continued the wise woman, "or you will 
grievously repent it Remember what you have 
already gone through to reach it Dangers lie all 
around this cottage of mine ; but inside, it is the 
safest place — in fact the only quite safe place in all 
the country." 

" She means to eat me," said the princess, 
" and therefore wants to frighten me from running 
away." 

She heard the voice no more. Then, suddenly 
startled at the thought of being alone, she looked 
hastily over her shoulder. The cottage was indeed 
empty of all visible life. It was soundless, too ; 



i 



54 THE WISE WOMAN. 

there was not even a ticking clock or a flapping 
flame. The fire burned still and smouldering-wise ; 
but it was all the company she had, and she turned 
again to stare into it. 

Soon she began to g^ow weary of having nothing 
to do. Then she remembered that the old woman, 
as she called her, had told her to keep the house 
tidy. 

"The miserable little pig-sty!" she said: "Where's 
the use of keeping such a hovel clean ? " 

But in truth she would have been glad of the 
employment, only just because she had been told 
to do it she was unwilling ; for there are people-^ 
however unlikely it may seem — who object to 
doing a thing for no other reason than that it is 
required of them. 

"I am a princess," she said, "and it is very 
improper to ask me to do such a thing." 

She might have judged it quite as suitable for a 



A PARABLE. 55 



princess to sweep away the dust as to sit the centre 
of a world of dirt But just because she ought, she 
wouldn't Perhaps she feared that if she gave in to 
doing her duty once, she might have to do it 
always — ^which was true enough — for that was the 
very thing for which she had been specially bom. 

Unabk, however, to feel quite comfortable in the 
resolve to neglect it, she said to herself, " I'm sure 
there's time enough for such a nasty job as that!* 
and sat on, watching the fire as it burned away, the 
glowing red casting off white flakes, and sinking 
lower and lower on the hearth. 

By and by, merely for want of sometliing to do, 
she would see what the old woman had left for her 
in the hole of the wall. But when she put in her 
hand she found nothing there, except the dust 
which she ought by this time to have wiped away. 
Never reflecting that the wise woman had told her 
she would find food there what she was hungry^ 



56 THE WISE WOMAN. 



she flew into one of her furies, calling her a cheat, 
and a thief, and a liar, and an ugly old witch, and 
an ogress, and I do not know how many wicked 
names besides. She raged until she was quite 
exhausted, and then fell fast asleep on her chair. 
When she awoke, the fire was out 

By this time she was hungry ; but without look- 
ing in the hole, she began again to storm at the 
wise woman, in which labour she would no doubt 
have once more exhausted herself, had not some- 
thing white caught her eye : it was the corner of a 
napkin hanging from the hole in the wall. She 
bounded to it, and there was a dinner for her of 
something strangely good — one of her favourite 
dishes, only better than she had ever tasted it before. 
This might surely have at least changed her mood 
towards the wise woman ; but she only grumbled 
to herself that it was as it ought to be, ate up the 
food, and lay down on the bed, never thinking of 
fire or dust, or water for the heather. 



A PARABLE. 57 



The wind began to moan about the cottage, and 
grew louder and louder, till a great gust came down 
the chimney, and again scattered the white ashes 
all over the place. But the princess was by this 
time fast asleep, and never woke till the wind had 
sunk to silence. One of the consequences, how- 
ever, of sleeping when one ought to be awake, is 
waking when one ought to be asleep; and the 
princess awoke in the black midnight, and found 
enough to keep her awake. For although the 
wind had fallen, there was a far more terrible 
howling than that of the wildest wind all about the 
cottage. Nor was the howling all ; the air was full 
of strange cries, and everywhere she heard the 
noise of claws scratching against the house, which . 
seemed all doors and windows, so crowded were 
the sounds, and from so many directions. All the 
night long she lay half swooning, yet listening 
to the hideous noises. But with the first glimmer 
of morning they ceased. 



58 THE WISE WOMAN. 

Then she said to herself, " How fortunate it v/as 
that I woke ! They would have eaten me up if I 
had been asleep." The miserable little wretch 
actually talked as if she had kept them out ! If 
she had done her work in the day, she would have 
slept through the terrors of the darkness, and 
awaked fearless; whereas now, she had in the 
storehouse of her heart a whole harvest of agonies, 
reaped from the dun fields of the night! 

They were neither wolves nor hyaenas which had 
caused her such dismay, but creatures of the air, 
more frightful still, which, as soon as the smoke of 
the burning fir-wood ceased to spread itself abroad, 
and the sun was a sufficient distance down the sky, 
and the lone cold woman was out, came flying and 
howling about the cottage, trying to get in at every 
door and window. Down the chimney they would 
have got, but that at the heart of the fire there 
always lay a certain fir-cone, which looked like 



A PARABLE. 59 



solid gold red-hot, and which, although it might 
easily get covered up with ashes, so as to be quite 
invisible, was continually in a glow fit to kindle all 
the fir-cones in the world : this it was which had 
kept the horrible birds — some say they have a claw 
at the tip of every wing feather — from tearing tlie 
poor naughty princess to pieces, and gobbling her 
up. 

When she rose and looked about her, she was 
dismayed to see what a state the cottage was in. 
The fire was out, and the windows were all dim 
with the wings and claws of the dirty birds, while 
the bed from which she had just risen was brown 
and withered, and half its purple bells had fallen. 
But she consoled herself that she could set all to 
rights in a few minutes — only she must breakfast 
first. And, sure enough, there was a basin of the 
delicious bread and milk ready for her in the hole 
of the wall ! 



6o THE WISE WOMAN. 



After she had eaten it, she felt comfortable, and 
sat for a long time building castles in the air — ^till 
she was actually hungry again, without having 
done an atom of work. She ate again, and was 
idle again, and ate again. Then it grew dark, and 
she went trembling to bed, for now she remembered 
the horrors of the last night. This time she never 
slept at all, but spent the long hours in grievous 
terror, for the noises were worse than before. She 
vowed she would not pass another night in such a 
hateful haunted old shed for all the ugly women^ 
witches, and ogresses in the wide world. In the 
morning, however, she fell asleep, and slept late. 

Breakfast was of course her first thought, after 
which she could not avoid that of work. It made 
her very miserable, but she feared the consequences 
of being found with it undone. A few minutes 
before noon, she actually got up, took her pinafore 
for a duster, and proceeded to dust the table. But 



A PARABLE. 6l 



the wood-ashes flew about so, that it seemed use- 
less to attempt getting rid of them, and she sat 
down again to think what was to be done. But 
there is very little indeed to be done when we will 
not do that which we have to do. 

Her first thought now was to run away at once 
while the sun was high, and get through the forest 
before night came on. She fancied she could 
easily go back the way she had come, and get 
home to her father's palace. But not the most 
experienced traveller in the world can ever go back 
the way the wise woman has brought him. 

She got up and went to the door. It was 
locked ! What could the old woman have meant 
by telling her not to leave the cottage ? She was 
indignant 

The wise woman had meant to make it difficult, 
but not impossible. Before the princess, however, 
could find the way out, she heard a hand at the 



62 THE WISE WOMAN. 



door, and darted in terror behind it The wise 
woman opened it, and, leaving it open, walked 
straight to the hearth. Rosamond immediately 
slid out, ran a little way, and then laid herself 
down in the long heather. 



CHAPTER V. 



'T'HE wise woman walked straight up to tlie 
hearth, looked at the fire, looked at the bed^ 
glanced round the room, and went up to the table. 
When she saw the one streak in the thick dust 
which the princess had left there, a smile, half-sad,, 
half-pleased, like the sun peeping through a cloud 
on a rainy day in spring, gleamed over her face. 
She went at once to the door, and called in a loud 
voice, — 

" Rosamond, come to me." 

All the wolves and hyaenas, fast asleep In the 
wood, heard her voice, and shivered in their 



64 THE WISE WOMAN. 



dreams. No wonder then that the princess trem- 
bled, and found herself compelled, she could not 
understand how, to obey the summons. She rose 
like the guilty thing she felt, forsook of herself the 
hiding-place she had chosen, and walked slowly 
back to the cottage she had left full of the signs of 
her shame. When she entered she saw the wise 
woman on her knees, building up the fire with fir- 
cones. Already the flame was climbing through 
the heap in all directions, crackling gently, and 
sending a sweet aromatic odour through the dusty 
cottage. 

" That is my part of the work," she said, rising. 
" Now you do yours. But first let me remind you 
that if you had not put it off, you would have found 
it not only far easier, but by and by quite pleasant 
work, much more pleasant than you can imagine 
now; nor would you have found the time go 
wearily ; you would neither have slept in the day 




A PARABLE. 65 



and let the fire out, nor waked at night and heard 
the howling of the beast-birds. More than all, 
you would have been glad to see me when I 
came back ; and would have leaped into my arms 
instead of standing there, looking so ugly and 
foolish." 

As she spoke, suddenly she held up before the 
princess a tiny mirror, so clear that nobody looking 
into it could tell what it was made of, or even see it 
at all — only the thing reflected in it Rosamond 
saw a child with dirty fat cheeks, greedy mouth, 
cowardly eyes — ^whtch, not daring to look forward, 
seemed trying to hide behind an impertinent nose 
— stooping shoulders, tangled hair, tattered clothes, 
and smears and stains everywhere. That was 
what she had made herself ! And to tell the truth, 
she was shocked at the sight, and immediately 
began in her dirty heart to lay the blame on the 
wise woman, because she had taken her away from 



66 THE WISE WOMAN. 



her nurses and her fine clothes ; while all the time 
she knew well enough that, close by the heather 
bed, was the loveliest little well, just big enough to 
wash in, the water of which was always springing 
fresh from the ground, and running away through 
the wall. Beside it lay the whitest of linen towels, 
with a comb made of mother-of-pearl, and a brush 
of fir-needles, any one of which she had been far 
too lazy to use. She dashed the glass out of the 
wise woman's hand, and there it lay, broken into a 
thousand pieces ! 

Without a word, the wise woman stooped and 
gathered the fragments — did not leave searching 
until she had gathered the last atom, after which 
she laid them all carefully, one by one, in the fire, 
now blazing high on the hearth. Then she stood 
up and looked at the princess, who had been 
watching her sulkily. 

" Rosamond/^ she said, with a countenance awful 



A PARABLE. 67 



in its Sternness, "until you have cleansed this 
room " 

"She calls it a room!" sneered the princess 
to herself. 

" You shall have no morsel to eat You may 
drink of the well, but nothing else you shall have. 
When the work I set you is done, you will find 
food in the same place as before. I am going from 
home again ; and again I warn you not to leave tlie 
house." 

" She calls it a house ! — It*s a good thing she's 
going out of it anyhow ! " said the princessy turning 
her back for mere rudeness, for she was one who, 
even if she liked a thing before, would dislike it the 
moment any person in authority over her desired 
her to do it. 

When she looked again, the wise woman had 
vanished. 

Thereupon the princess ran at once to the door, 



68 THE WISE WOMAN. 



and tried to open it ; but open it would not She 
searched on all sides, but could discover no way of 
getting out The windows would not open — at 
least she could not open them ; and the only 
outlet seemed the chimney, which she was afraid 
to try because of the fire, which looked angry, she 
thought, and shot out green flames, when she went 
near it So she sat down to consider. One may 
well wonder what room for consideration there 
was — ^with all her work lying undone behind her. 
She sat thus, however, considering, as she called it, 
until hunger began to sting her, when she jumped 
up and put her hand as usual in the hole of the 
wall : there was nothing there ! She fell straight 
into one of her stupid rages ; but neither her 
hunger nor the hole in the wall heeded her rage. 
Then, in a burst of self-pity, she fell a- weeping, but 
neither the hunger nor the hole cared for her tears. 
The darkness began to come on, and her hunger 



A PARABLE. 69 



grew and grew, and the terror of the wild noises of 
the last nights invaded her. Then she began to 
feel cold, and saw that the fire was dying. She 
darted to the heap of cones and fed it It blazed 
up cheerily, and she was comforted a little. Then 
she thought with herself it would surely be better 
to give in so far, and do a little work, than die of 
hunger. So catching up a duster, she began upon 
the table. The dust flew about and nearly choked 
her. She ran to the well to drink, and was 
refreshed and encouraged. Perceiving now that it 
was a tedious plan to wipe the dust from the table 
on to the floor, whence it would have all to be 
swept up again, she got a wooden platter, wiped 
the dust into that, carried it to the fire, and threw 
it in. But all the time she was getting more and 
more hungry, and although she tried the hole again 
and again, it was only to become more and more 
certain that work she must if she would eat. 



THE WISE WOMAN, 



At length all the furniture was dusted, and she 
began to sweep the floor, which happily she thought 
of sprinkling with water, as from the window she 
had seen them do to the marble court of the palace. 
That swept, she rushed again to the hole — but 
still no food! She was on the verge of another 
rage, when the thought came that she might have 
forgotten something. To her dismay she found 
that table and chairs and everything was again 
covered with dust, — not so badly as before, how- 
ever. Again she set to work, driven by hunger, 
and drawn by the hope of eating, and yet again, 
after a second careful wiping, sought the hole. 
But no ! nothing was there for her ! What could 
it mean ? 

Her asking this question was a sign of progress : 
it showed that she expected the wise woman to 
keep her word. Then she bethought her that she 
had forgotten the household utensils, and the 



A PARABLE. 7 1 



dishes and plates, some of which wanted to be 
v/ashed as well as dusted. 

Faint with hunger, she set to work yet again. 
One thing made her think of another, until at 
length she had cleaned everything she could 
think of. Now surely she must find some food in 
the hole ! 

When this time also there was nothing, she 
began once more to abuse the wise woman as false 
and treacherous; — ^but ah! there was the bed 
miwatered! That was soon amended. — Still no 
supper ! — Ah ! there was the hearth unswept, and 
the fire wanted making up ! — Still no supper ! What 
else could there be ? She was at her wits' end, and 
in very weariness, not laziness this time, sat down 
and gazed into the fire. There, as she gazed, she 
spied something brilliant — shining even in the 
midst of the fire : it was the little mirror all 
whole again ; but little she knew that the dust 



7^ THE WISE WOSAN. 



which she had thrown into the fire had helped to 
heal it 

She drew it out carefully, and, looking into it; 
saw, not indeed the ugly creature she had seen 
there before, but still a very dirty little animal ; 
whereupon she hurried to the well, took off her 
clothes, plunged into it, and washed herself clean. 
Then she brushed and combed her hair, made her 
clothes as tidy as might be, and ran to the hole in 
the wall : there was a huge basin of bread and 
milk! 

Never had she eaten anything with half the 
relish ! Alas ! however, when she had finished, 
she did not wash the basin, but left it as it was, 
revealing how entirely all the rest had been done 
only from hunger. Then she threw herself on the 
heather, and was fast asleep in a moment. Never 
an evil bird came near her all that night, nor had 
she so much as one troubled dream. 



A PARABLE. 73 



In the morning, as she lay awake before 
getting up, she spied what seemed a door behind 
the tall eight-day clock that stood silent in the 
comer. 

" Ah ! " she thought, " that must be the way 
out ! *' and got up instantly. The first thing she 
did, however, was to go to the hole in the wall. 
Nothing was there. 

"Well, I am hardly used ! " she cried aloud. "All 
that cleaning for the cross old woman yesterday, 
and this for my trouble — nothing for breakfast? 
Not even a crust of bread ! Does Mistress Ogress 
fancy a princess will bear that ! " 

The poor foolish creature seemed to think that 
the work of one day ought to serve for the next 
day too! But that is nowhere the way in the 
whole universe. How could there be a universe in 
that case ? And even she never dreamed of apply- 
ing the same rule to her breakfast. 



74 THE WISE WOMAN. 



" How good I was all yesterday ! " she said, " and 
how hungry and ill-used I am to day ! " 

But she would not be a slave, and do over again 
to-day what she had done only last night! Site 
didn't care about her breakfast ! She might have 
it, no doubt, if she dusted all the wretched place 
again, but she was not going to do that — at least, 
without seeing first what lay behind the clock ! 

Off she darted, and, putting her hand behind the 
clock, found the latch of a door. It lifted, and the 
door opened a little way. By squeezing hard, she 
managed to get behind the clock, and so through 
the door. But how she stared, when, instead of 
the open heath, she found herself on the marble 
floor of a large and stately room, lighted only from 
above. Its walls were strengthened by pilasters, 
and in every space between was a large picture, 
from cornice to floor. She did not know what to 
make of it Surely she had run all round the 



A PARABLE. 75 



cottage, and certainly had seen nothing of this size 
near it ! She forgot that she had also run round 
what she took for a hay-mow, a peat-stack, and 
several other things which looked of no consequence 
in the moonlight ! 

" So then," she cried, " the old woman is a cheati 
I believe she's an ogress after all, and lives in a 
palace — though she pretends it's only a cottage, 
to keep people from suspecting that she eats good 
little children like me ! " 

Had the princess been tolerably tractable, she 
would by this time have known a good deal about 
the wise woman's beautiful house, whereas she had 
never till now got further than tlie porch. Neither 
was she at all in its innermost places now. 

But, king's daughter as she was, she was not a 
little daunted when, stepping forward from the 
recess of the door, she saw what a great lordly hall 
it was. She dared hardly look to the other end, 



y6 THE WISE WOMAN. 



it seemed so far off; so she began to gaze at the 
things near her, and the pictures first of all, for she 
had a great liking for pictures. One in particular 
attracted her attention. She came back to it 
several times, and at length stood absorbed in it 

A blue summer sky, with white fleecy clouds 
floating beneath it, hung over a hill green to the 
very top, and alive with streams darting down its 
sides toward the valley below. On the face of the 
hill strayed a flock of sheep feeding, attended by a 
shepherd and two dogs. A little way apart, a girl 
stood with bare feet in a brook, building across it a 
bridge of rough stones. The wind was blowing 
her hair back from her rosy face. A lamb was 
feeding close beside her, and a sheep-dog was try- 
ing to reach her hand to lick it 

" Oh how I wish I were that little girl ! " said the 
princess aloud. "I wonder how it is that some 
people are made to be so much happier than others I 



A PARABLE. ^^ 



If I were that little girl, no one would ever call me 
naughty." 

She gazed and gazed at the picture. At length 
she said to herself, — 

" I do not believe it is a picture. It is the real 
country, with a real hill, and a real little girl upon 
it I shall soon see whether this isn't another of 
the old witch's cheats !" 

She went close up to the picture, lifted her foot, 
and stepped over the frame. 

"I am free! I am free!" she exclaimed, and she 
felt the wind upon her cheek. 

The sound of a closing door struck on her ear. 
She turned — and there was a blank wall, without 
door or window, behind her! The hill with the 
sheep was before her, and she set out at once to 
reach it 

Now if I am asked how this could be, I can only 
answer that it was a result of the interaction of 



78 THE WISE WOMAN. 



tilings outside and things inside, of the wise 
woman's skill, and the silly child's folly. If this 
does not satisfy my questioner, I can only add, that 
the wise woman was able to do far more wonderful 
things than this. 



CHAPTER VI. 



TVyr EANTIME the wise woman was busy — as she 
always was ; and her business now was with 
the child of the shepherd and shepherdess, away in 
the north. Her name was Agnes. 

Her father and mother were poor, and could not 
give her many things. Rosamond would have 
utterly despised the rude simple playthings she 
had. Yet in one respect they were of more value 
far than hers: the king bought Rosamond's with 
his money; Agnes's father made hers with his 
hands. 
And while Agnes had but few things — not see- 



80 THE WISE WOMAN. 



ing many things about her, and nbt even knowing 
that there were many things anywhere, she did not 
wish for many things, and was therefore neither 
covetous nor avaricious. 

She played with the toys her father made her, 
and thought them the most wonderful things in 
the world — ^windmills, and little crooks, and water- 
wheels, and sometimes lambs made all of wool, 
and dolls made out of the leg-bones of sheep, 
which her mother dressed for her ; and of such 
playthings she was never tired. Sometimes, how- 
ever, she preferred playing with stones, which were 
plentiful, and flowers, which were few, or the brooks 
that ran do\vn the hill, of which, although they 
were many, she could only play with one at a time, 
and that indeed troubled her a little — or live lambs 
^that were not all wool, or the sheep-dogs, which 
were very friendly with her, and the best of play- 
fellows, as she thought, for she had no human ones 



A PARABLE. Si 



to compare them with. Neither was she greedy 
after nice things, but content, as well she might be, 
with the homely food provided for her. Nor was 
she by nature particularly self-willed or disobedient ; 
she generally did what her father and mother 
wished, and believed what they told her. But by 
degrees they had spoiled her. And this was the 
way : they were so proud of her that they always 
repeated everything she said, and told everything 
she did, even when she was present ; and so full of 
admiration of their child were they, that they 
wondered and laughed at and praised things in her 
which in another child would never have struck them 
as the least remarkable, and some things even 
which would in another have disgusted them 
altogether. Impertinent and rude things done by 
tAeir child they thought so clever ! laughing at them 
as something quite marvellous ; her commonplace 
speeches were said over again as if they had been 



£2 THE WISE WOMAN. 



the finest poetry ; and the pretty ways which every 
moderately good child has were extolled as if the 
result of her excellent taste, and the choice of her 
judgment and will. They would even say some- 
times that she ought not to hear her own praises 
for fear it should make her vain, and then whisper 
them behind their hands, but so loud that she 
could not fail to hear every word. The consequence 
was that she soon came to believe — so soon that 
she could not recall the time when she did not 
believe — as the most absolute fact in the universe, 
that she was Somebody; that is, she became 
immoderately conceited. 

Now as the least atom of conceit is a thing to 
be ashamed of, you may fancy what she was like 
with such a quantity of it inside her ! At first it 
did not show itself outside in any very active form, 
but the wise woman had been to the cottage, and 
had seen her sitting alone with such a smile of 



A PARABLE. 83 



self-satisfaction upon her face as would have been 
quite startling to her, if she had ever been startled 
at anything. For through that smile she could see 
lying at the root of it the worm that made it For 
some smiles are like the ruddiness of certain apples, 
which is owing to a centipede, or other creeping 
thing, coiled up at the heart of them. Only her 
worm had a face and shape the very image of her 
own ; and she looked so simpering, and mawkish, 
and self-conscious, and silly, that she made the 
wise woman feel rather sick. 

Not that the child was a fool. Had she been, 
the wise woman would have only pitied and loved 
her, instead of feeling sick when she looked at her. 
She had very fair abilities, and were she once but 
made humble, would be capable not only of doing 
a good deal in time, but of beginning at once to 
grow to no end. But if she were not made humble, 
her growing would be to a mass of distorted shapes 



84 THE WISE WOMAN. 



all huddled together ; so that, although the body 
she now showed might grow up straight and well- 
shaped and comely to behold, the new body that 
was growing inside of it, and would come out of it 
when she died, would be ugly, and crooked this 
way and that, like an aged hawthorn that has lived 
hundreds of years exposed upon all sides to salt 
sea-winds. 

As time went on, this disease of self-conceit 
went on too, gradually devouring the good that 
was in her. For there is no fault that does not 
bring its brothers and sisters and cousins to live 
with it By degrees, from thinking herself so 
clever, she came to fancy that whatever seemed to 
her, must of course be the correct judgment, and 
whatever she wished, the right thing ; and grew so 
obstinate, that at length her parents feared to 
thwart her in anything, knowing well that she 
would never give in. But there are victories far 



A PARABLE. 85 



worse than defeats ; and to overcome an angel too 
gentle to put out all his strength, and ride away in 
triumph on the back of a devil, is one of the 
poorest 

So long as she was left to take her own way and 
do as she would, she gave her parents little trouble. 
She would play about by herself in the little gar- 
den with its few hardy flowers, or amongst the 
heather where the bees were busy ; or she would 
wander away amongst the hills, and be nobody 
knew where, sometimes from morning to night; 
nor did her parents venture to find fault with 
her. 

She never went into rages like the princess ; and 
would have thought Rosamond — oh, so ugly and 
vile ! if she had seen her in one of her passions. 
But she was no better for all that, and was quite as 
wgly in the eyes of the wise woman, who could not 
only see but read her face. What is there to 



86 TIIK WISE WOMAN. 



choose betAveen a face distorted to hideousness by 
anger, and one distorted to silliness by self-com- 
placency ? True, there is more hope of helping the 
angry child out of her form of selfishness than the 
conceited child out of hers ; but on the other hand, 
the conceited child was not so terrible or dangerous 
as the wrathful one. The conceited one, however, 
was sometimes very angry, and then her anger was 
more spiteful than the other's; and, again, the 
wrathful one was often very conceited too. So 
that, on the whole, of two very unpleasant creatures, 
I would say that the king's daughter would have 
been the worse, had not the shepherd's been quite 

as bad. 

But, as I have said, the wise woman had her eye 
upon her : she saw that something special must be 
done, else she would be one of those who kneel to 
their own shadows till feet grow on their knees ; 
then go down on their hands till their hands grow 



A PARABLE. 87 



into feet ; then lay their faces on the ground till 
they grow into snouts ; when at last they are a 
hideous sort of lizards, each of which believes 
himself the best, wisest, and loveliest being in the 
world, yea, the very centre of the universe. And 
so they run about for ever looking for their own 
shadows that they may worship them, and miser- 
able because they cannot find them, being them- 
selves too near the ground to have any shadows ; 
and what becomes of them at last, there is but one 
who knows. 

The wise woman, therefore, one day walked up 
to the door of the shepherd's cottage, dressed like a 
poor woman, and asked for a drink of water. The 
shepherd's wife looked at her, liked her, and 
brought her a cup of milk. The wise woman took 
it, for she made it a rule to accept every kindness 
that was offered her. 

Agnes was not by nature a greedy girl, as I have 



8S THE WISE WOMAN. 



said ; but self-conceit will go far to generate every 
other vice under the sun. Vanity, which is a form 
of self-conceit, has repeatedly shown itself as the 
deepest feeling in the heart of a horrible mur- 
deress. 

That morning, at breakfast, her mother had 
stinted her in milk — just a little — that she might 
have enough to make some milk-porridge for their 
dinner. Agnes did not mind it at the time, but 
when she saw the milk now given to a beggar, as 
she called the wise woman — though surely one 
might ask a draught of water, and accept a 
draught of milk, without being a beggar in any such 
sense as Agnes's contemptuous use of the word 
implied — a cloud came upon her forehead, and a 
double vertical wrinkle settled over her nose. The 
wise woman saw it, for all her business was with 
Agnes though she little knew it, and, rising, went 
and offered the cup to the child, where she sat with 



A PARABLE. 89 



lier knitting in a comer. Agnes looked at it, did 
not want it, was inclined to refuse it from a beggar, 
but thinking it would show her consequence to 
assert her rights, took it and drank it up. For 

« 

whoever is possessed by a devil judges with the 
mind of that devil ; and hence Agnes was guilty of 
•such a meanness as many who are themselves 
•capable of something just as bad will consider 
incredible. 

The wise woman waited till she had finished it 
— then, looking into the empty cup, said : 

" You might have given me back as much as you 
had no claim upon !" 

Agnes turned away and made no answer — far 
less from shame than indignation. 

The wise woman looked at the mother. 

" You should not have offered it to her if you did 
not mean her to have it," said the mother, siding 
with the devil in her child against the wise woman 



90 THE WISE WOMAN. 



and her child too. Some foolish people think they 
take another's part when they take the part he 
takes. 

The wise woman said nothing, but fixed her eyes 
upon her, and soon the mother hid her face in her 
apron weeping. Then she turned again to Agnes, 
who had never looked round but sat with her back 
to both, and suddenly lapped her in the folds of 
her cloak. When the mother again lifted her eyes, 
she had vanished. 

Never supposing she had carried away her child, 
but uncomfortable because of what she had said to 
the poor woman, the mother went to the door, and 
called after her as she toiled slowly up the hill. 
But she never turned her head ; and the mother 
went back into her cottage. 

The wise woman walked close past the shepherd 
and his dogs, and through the midst of his flock of 
sheep. The shepherd wondered where she could 



A PARABLE. 9^ 



be going — right up the hill. There was something 
strange about her too, he thought ; and he followed 
her with his tyes as she went up and up. 

It was near sunset, and as the sun went down, a 
gray cloud settled on the top of the mountain, 
which his last rays turned into a rosy gold. 
Straight into this cloud the shepherd saw the 
woman hold her pace, and in it she vanished. He 
little imagined that his child was under her cloak. 

He went home as usual in the evening, but 
Agnes had not come in. They were accustomed to 
such an absence now and then, and were not at 
first frightened ; but when it grew dark and she did 
not appear, the husband set out with his dogs in 
one direction, and the wife in another, to seek their 
child. Morning came and they had not found her. 
Then the whole country-side arose to search for the 
missing Agnes; but day after day and night after 
night passed, and nothing was discovered of or 



92 THE WISE WOMAN. 



concerning her, until at length all gave up the 
search in despair except the mother, although she 
was nearly convinced now that the poor woman 
had carried her off. 

One day she had wandered some distance from 
her cottage, thinking she might come upon the 
remains of her daughter at the foot of some cliff, 
when she came suddenly instead upon a discon- 
solate-looking creature sitting on a stone by the 
side of a stream. Her hair hung in tangles from 
her head ; her clothes were tattered, and through 
the rents her skin showed in many places.; her 
cheeks were white, and worn thin with hunger ; th6 
hollows were dark under her eyes, and they stood 
out scared and wild. When she caught sight of 
the shepherdess, she jumped to her feet, and would 
have run away, but fell down in a faint. 

At first sight the mother had taken her for her 
own child, but now she saw, with a pang of dis- 



A PARABLE. 93 



appointment, that she had mistaken. Full of com- 
pasision nevertheless, she said to herself : 

" If she is not my Agnes, she is as much in 
need of help as if she were. If I cannot be good 
to my own, I will be as good as I can to some 
other w^oman's ; and though I should scorn to be 
consoled for the loss of one by the presence of 
another, I yet may find some gladness in rescuing: 
one child from the death which has taken the 

other." 

Perhaps her words were not just like these,, 
but her thoughts were. She took up the child,, 
and carried her home. And this is how Rosamond* 
came to occupy the place of the little girl whom' 
she had envied in the picture. 



CHAPTER VIL 



TNJOTWITHSTANDING the differences be- 

tween the two girls, which were, indeed, so 

many that most people would have said they were 

not in the least alike, they were the same in this, 

that each cared more for her own fancies and 

desires than for anything else in the world. But I 

will tell you another difference : the princess was 

like several children in one — such was the variety 

of her moods ; and in one mood she had no 

recollection or care about anything whatever 

belonging to a previous mood — not even if it had 

left her but a moment before, and had been so 



A PARABLE. 95 



violent as to make her ready to put her hand in 
the fire to get what she wanted. Plainly she was 
the mere puppet of her moods, and more than that, 
any cunning nurse who knew her well enough could 
call or send away those moods almost as she 
pleased, like a showman pulling strings behind a 
show. Agnes, on the contrary, seldom changed 
her mood, but kept that of calm assured self- 
satisfaction. Father nor mother had never by wise 
punishment helped her to gain a victory over 
herself, and do what she did not like or choose ; 
and their folly in reasoning with one unreasonable 
had fixed her in her conceit. She would actually 
nod her head to herself in complacent pride that 
she had stood out against them. This, however, 
was not so difficult as to justify even the pride of 
having conquered, seeing she loved them so little, 
and paid so little attention to the arguments and 
persuasions they used. Neither, when she found 



g6 THE WISE WOMAN. 



herself wrapped in the dark folds of the wise 
woman's cloak, did she behave in the least like the 
princess, for she was not afraid. " She'll soon set 
me down," she said, too self-important to suppose 
that any one would dare to do her an injury. 

Whether it be a good thing or a bad not to be 
afraid depends on what the fearlessness is founded 
upon. Some have no fear because they have no- 
knowledge of the danger : there is nothing fine ia 
that Some are too stupid to be afraid : there is 
nothing fine in that. Some who are not easily 
frightened would yet turn their backs and run the 
moment they were frightened : such never had 
more courage than fear. But the man who will do 
his work in spite of his fear is a man of true courage. 
The fearlessness of Agnes was only ignorance : 
she did not know what it was to be hurt ; she had 
never read a single story of giant or ogress or wolf; 
and her mother had never carried out one of her 



A PARABLE. 97 



threats of punishment If the wise woman had 
but pinched her, she would have shown herself an 
abject little coward, tremtfling with fear at every 
change of motion so long as she carried her. 

Nothing such, however, was in the wise woman's 
plan for the curing of her. On and on she carried 
her without a word. She knew that if she set her 
down she would never run after her like the 
princess, at least not before the evil thing was 
already upon her. On and on she went, never 
halting, never letting the light look in, or Agnes 
look' out. She walked very fast, and got home 
to her cottage very soon after the princess had 
gone from it. 

But she did not set Agnes down either in the 
cottage or in the great hall. She had other places, 
none of them alike. The place she had chosen for 
Agnes was a strange one — such a one as is to be 
found nowhere else in the wide world. 

H 



98 THE WISE WOMAN. 



It was a great hollow sphere, made of a substance 
similar to that of the mirror which Rosamond had 
broken, but diflferently compounded. That sub- 
stance no one could see by itself. It had neither 
door, nor window, nor any opening to break its 
perfect roundness. 

The wise woman carried Agnes into a dark room, 
there undressed her, took from her hand her 
knitting needles, and put her, naked as she was 
born, into the hollow sphere. 

What sort of place it was she could not tell. 
She could see nothing but a faint, cold, bluish light 
all about her. She could not feel that anything 
supported her, and yet she did not sink. She 
stood for a while, perfectly calm, then sat down. 
Nothing bad could happen to her — she was so 
important ! And, indeed, it was but this : she had 
cared only for Somebody, and now she was going 
to have only Somebody. Her own choice was 



1 



A PARABLE. 99 



going to be carried a good deal farther for her 
than she would have knowingly carried it for 
herself. 

After sitting a while, she wished she had 
something to do, but nothing came. A little 
longer, and it grew wearisome. She would see 
whether she could not walk out of the strange 
luminous dusk that surrounded her. 

Walk she found she could, well enough, but 
walk out she could not On and on she went 
keeping as much in a straight line as she might, 
but after walking until she was thoroughly tired, 

a 

she found herself no nearer out of her prison than 
before. She had not, indeed, advanced a single 
step; for, in whatever direction she tried to go, 
the sphere turned round and round, answering her 
feet accordingly. Like a squirrel in his cage, she 
but kept placing another spot of the cunningly sus- 
pended sphere under her feet, and she would have 



lOO THE WISE WOMAN. 



been still only at its lowest point after walking 
for ages. 

At length she cried aloud ; but there was no 
answer. It grew dreary and drearier — in her, that 
is ; outside there was no change. Nothing was 
overhead, nothing under foot, nothing on either 
handy but the same pale, faint, bluish glimmer. 
She wept at last, then grew very angry, and then 
sullen; but nobody heeded whether she cried or 
laughed. It was all the same to the cold unmoving 
twilight that rounded her. On and on went the 
dreary hours — or did they go at all ? — " no change, 
no pause, no hope ;"— on and on till she /^// she 
was forgotton, and then she grew strangely still and 
fell asleep. 

The moment she was asleep the wise woman 
came, lifted her out, and laid her in her bosom ; fed 
her with a wonderful milk, which she received 
without knowing it ; nursed her all the night long, 




A PARABLE. lOI 



and, just ere she awoke, laid her back in the blue 
sphere again. 

When first she came to herself, she thought the 
horrors of the preceding day had been all a dream 
of the night But they soon asserted themselves 
as facts, for here they were ! — nothing to see but a 
cold blue light, and nothing to do but see it ! Oh, 
how slowly the hours went by ! She lost all notion 
of time. If she had been told that she had been 
there twenty years, she would have believed it — or 
twenty minutes — it would have been all the same : 
except for weariness, time was for her no more. 

Another night came, and another still, during 
both of which the wise woman nursed and fed 
her. But she knew nothing of that, and the same 
one dreary day seemed ever brooding over her. 

All at once, on a third day, she was aware that a 
naked child was seated beside her. But tjiere was 
something about the child that made her shudder. 



102 THE WISE WOJfAX. 

Sie never looked at Agnes, but sat with her chin 
sunk on her chest, and her e>-es staring at her own 
toes. She was the colour of paJe earth, with a 
pinched nose, and a mere slit in her face for a 
mouth. 

" How i^Iy she is ! "* thought Agnes. ** What 
bu^ness has she be^dc me * " 

But it was so lonely that she would ha\-e been 
l^ad to play -n-ith a serpent, and put out her hand 
to touch her. She touched nothii^. The child 
also put out her hand — but in the direction away 
from Agnes. And that was well, for if ^e had 
touched Agnes it would have killed her. Then 
Agata said, "Who are you ?" And the litUe girt 
said. "Who are j-ou?" "I am i^es," ssud 
and the little girt said, "I am Agnes." 
I thought she was mocking her, and 
pYou are ugly ; " «nd the Uttle girl said. 




A PARABLE. IO3 



Then Agnes lost her temper, and put out her 
hands to seize the little girl ; but lo ! the little 
girl was gone, and she found herself tugging at her 
own hair. She let go, and there was the little girl 
again ! Agnes was furious now, and flew at her to 
bite her. But she found her teeth in her own arm, 
and the little girl was gone— only to return again ; 
and each time she came back she was tenfold 
uglier than before. And now Agnes hated her 
with her whole heart. 

The moment she hated her, it flashed upon her 
with a sickening disgust that the child was not 
another, but her Self, her Somebody, and that she 
was now shut up with her for ever and ever — no 
more for one moment ever to be alone. In her 
agony of despair, sleep descended, and she slept 

When she woke, there was the little girl, heed- 
less, ugly, miserable, staring at her own toes. All 
at once, the creature began to smile, but with such 



THS WISX WOUAN. 




an odious self-satisfied expression, that Agnes felt 
ashamed of seeing her. Then she began to pat her 
own cheeks, to stroke her own body, and examine 
her finger-ends, nodding her head with satisfaction. 
Agnes felt that there could not be such another 
hateful, ape-like creature, and at the same time 
was perfectly aware she was only doing outside o( 
her what she herself had been doing, as long as she 
could remember, inside of her. 

She turned sick at herself, and would gladly 

have been put out of existence, but for three daj-s 

the odious companionship went on. By the third 

day, Agnes was not merely sick but ashamed of 

the life she had hitherto led, was despicable in her 

onti eyes, and astonished that she had never seen 

the truth concerning herself before. 

The next morning she wok-e in the arms of the 

woman; the horror had vanished from her 

and two heavenly eyes were gazing upon 



A PARABLE. I 05 



her. She wept and clung to her, and the more she 
clung, the more tenderly did the great strong arms 
close around her. 

When she had lain thus for a while, the wise 
woman carried her into her cottage, and washed 
her in the little well; then dressed her in clean gar- 
ments, and gave her bread and milk. When she 
had eaten it, she called her to her, and said very 
solemnly, — 

"Agnes, you must not imagine you are cured. 
That you are ashamed of yourself now is no sign 
that the cause for such shame has ceased. In new 
circumstances, especially after you have done well 
for a while, you will be in danger of thinking just 
as much of yourself as before. So beware of your- 
self I am going from home, and leave you in 
charge of the house. Do just as I tell you till my 
return." 

She then gave her the same directions she had 



106 TH£ WISE WOMAN. 



formerly given Rosamond — ^with this difference, 
that she told her to go into the picture hall when 
she pleased, showing her the entrance, against 
which the clock no longer stood — ^and went away, 
closing the door behind her. 




CHAPTER VIII. 



A S soon as she was left alone, Agnes set to work 
tidying and dusting the cottage, made up the 
fire, watered the bed, and cleaned the inside of the 
windows : the wise woman herself always kept the 
outside of them clean. When she had done, she 
found her dinner — of the same sort she was used to 
at. home, but better — in the hole of the wall. When 
she had eaten it, she went to look at the pictures. 

By this time her old disposition had begun to 
rouse again. She had been doing her duty, and 
had in consequence begun again to think herself 
Somebody. However strange it may well seem, to 



I08 THE WISE WOMAN. 



do one's duty will make any one conceited who only 
does it sometimes. Those who do it always would 
as soon think of being conceited of eating their 
dinner as of doing their duty. What honest boy 
would pride himself on not picking pockets? A 
thief who was trying to reform would. To be con- 
ceited of doing one's duty is then a sign of how 
little one does it, and how little one sees what a 
contemptible thing it is not to do it Could any 
but a low creature be conceited of not being con- 
temptible ? Until our duty becomes to us common 
as breathing, we are poor creatures. 

So Agnes began to stroke herself ooce more, 
forgetting her late self-stroking companion, and 
never reflecting that she was now doing what she 
had then abhorred. And in this mood she went 
into the picture gallery. 

The first picture she saw represented a square in 
a great city, one side of which was occupied by a 



A PARABLE. • IO9 



splendid marble palace, with great flights of broad 
steps leading up to the door. Between it and the 
square was a marble-paved court with gates of brass, 
at which stood sentries in gorgeous uniforms, and 
to which was affixed the following proclamation in 
letters of gold, large enough for Agnes to read : — 

^^ By tJie will of tJie King^ from this time until 
furtJur notice^ every stray child found in the realm 
sltall be brought wit/tout a moments delay to tJu^ 
palace. Wlwever shall be found having done other- 
wise shall straightway lose his head by the Jiand of 
t/te public execntionerr 

Agnes's heart beat loud, and her face flushed. 

"Can there be such a city in the world?" she 
said to herself. ** If I only knew where it was, I 
should set out for it at once. There would be the 
place for a clever girl like me ! " 

Her eyes fell on the picture which had so enticed 
Rosamond. It was the very country where her 



no THE WISE WOMAN. 



father fed his flocks. Just round the shoulder of 
the hill was the cottage where her parents lived, 
where she was bom and whence she had been 
carried by the beggar-woman. 

"Ah!" she said, "they didn't know me there! 
They little thought what I could be if I had the 
chance. If I were but in this good, kind, loving, 
generous king's palace, I should soon be such a 
great lady as they never saw! Then they would 
understand what a good little girl I had always 
been! And I shouldn't forget my poor parents 
like some I have read of / would be generous. / 
should never be selfish and proud like girls in 
story-books ! " 

As she said this, she turned her back with 
disdain upon the picture of her home, and setting 
herself before the picture of the palace, stared at it 
with wide ambitious eyes, and a heart whose every 
beat was a throb of arrogant self-esteem. 




A PARABLE. Ill 



The shepherd-child was now worse than ever the 
poor princess had been. For the wise woman had 
given her a terrible lesson, one of which the 
princess was not capable, and she had known what 
it meant; yet here she was as bad as ever, therefore 
worse than before. The ugly creature, whose 
presence had made her so miserable, had indeed 
crept out of sight and mind too — but where was 
she ? Nestling in her very heart, where most of all 
she had her company, and least of all could see 
her. The wise woman had called her out that 
Agnes might see what sort of creature she was 
herself; but now she was snug in her soul's 
bed again, and she did not even suspect she was 
there. 

After gazing a while at the palace picture, 
during which her ambitious pride rose and rose, 
she turned yet again in condescending mood and 
honoured the home picture with one stare more. 



112 THE WISE WOMAN. 



"What a poor miserable spot it is, compared 
with this lordly palace ! " she said. 

But presently she spied something in it she had 
not seen before, and drew nearer. It was the form 
of a little girl, building a bridge of stones over one 
of the hill-brooks. 

"Ah, there I am myself!" she said. "That is 
just how I used to do. — ^No!" she resumed, "it is 
not me. That snub-nosed little fright could never 
be meant for me ! It was the frock that made me 
think so. But it is a picture of the place. I 
declare I can see the smoke of the cottage rising 
from behind the hill ! What a dull, dirty, insignifi- 
cant spot it is ! And what a life to lead there ! '* 

She turned once more to the city picture. And 
now a strange thing took place. In proportion as 
the other, to the eyes of her mind, receded into the 
back-ground, this, to her present bodily eyes,, 
appeared to come forward and assume reality. At 




A PARABLE. II3 



last, after it had been in this way growing upon 
her for some time, she gave a cry of conviction, 
and said aloud — 

" I do believe it is real ! That frame is only a 
trick of the woman to make me fancy it a picture, 
lest I should go and make my fortune. She is a 
witch, the ugly old creature ! It would serve her 
right to tell the king and have her punished for not 
taking me to the palace— one of his poor lost 
children he is so fond of! I should like to see her 
ugly old head cut off. Anyhow I will try my luck 
without asking her leave. How she has ill-used 
me ! ". 

But at that moment she heard the voice of the 
wise woman calling, " Agnes !" and, smoothing her 
face, she tried to look as good as she could, and 
walked back into the cottage. There stood the 
wise woman, looking all round the place and 
examining her work. She fixed her eyes upon 



I 



114 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Agnes in a way that confused her, and made her 
cast hers down, for she felt as if she were reading 
her thoughts. The wise woman, however, asked 
no questions, but began to talk about her work, 
approving of some of it, which filled her with 
arrogance, and showing how some of it might have 
been done better, which filled her with resentment. 
But the wise woman seemed to take no care of 
what she might be thinking, and went straight on 
with her lesson. By the time it was over, the 
power of reading thoughts would not have been 
necessary to a knowledge of what was in the mind 
of Agnes, for it had all come to the surface — that 
is> up into her face, which is the surface of the 
mind. Ere it had time to sink down again, the 
wise woman caught up the little mirror and held it 
before her: Agnes saw her Somebody — ^the very 
embodiment of miserable conceit and ugly ill- 
temper. She gave such a scream of horror that 



f 



A PARABLE. II5 



the wise woman pitied her, and laying aside the 
mirror, took her upon her knees, and talked to her 
most kindly and solemnly ; in particular about the 
necessity of destroying the ugly things that come 
out of the heart — so ugly that they make the very 
face over them ugly also. 

And what was Agnes doing all the time the wise 
woman was talking to her ? Would you believe 
it ? — instead of thinking how to kill the ugly things 
in her heart, she was with all her might resolving 
to be more careful of her face, that is, to keep 
down the things in her heart so that they should 
not show in her face ; she was resolving to be a 
hypocrite as well as a self-worshipper. Her heart 
was wormy, and the worms were eating very fast 
at it now. 

Then the wise woman laid her gently down 
upon the heather-bed, and she fell fast asleep, and 
had an awful dream about her Somebody. 



Il6 THE WISE WOMAN. 

When she woke in the morning, instead of 
getting up to do the work of the house, she lay 
thinking — to evil purpose. In place of taking her 
dream as a warning, and thinking over what the 
wise woman had said the night before, she 
communed with herself in this fashion : — 

" If I stay here longer, I shall be miserable. It 
is nothing better than slavery. The old witch 
shows me horrible things in the day, to set me 
dreaming horrible things in the night If I don't 
run away, that frightful blue prison and the 
disgusting girl will come back, and I shall go out 
of my mind. How I do wish I could find the way 
to the good king's palace ! I shall go and look at 
the picture again — if it be a picture — as soon as 
I've got my clothes on. The work can wait It's 
not my work. It's the old witch's, and she ought 
to do it herself." 

She jumped out of bed, and hurried on her 




A PARAtiLE. 117 



clothes. There was no wise woman to be seen, 
and she hastened into the hall. There was the 
picture, with the marble palace, and the procla- 
mation shining in letters of gold upon its gates of 
brass! She stood before it and gazed and gazed; 
and all the time it kept growing upon her in some 
strange way until at last she was fully persuaded 
that it was no picture, but a real city, square, and 
marble palace, seen through a framed opening in 
the wall. She ran up to the frame, stepped over it, 
felt the wind blow upon her cheek, heard the sound 
of a closing door behind her, and was free. Free 
was she ? — with that creature inside her ? 

The same moment a terrible storm of thunder 
and lightning, wind and rain, came on. The 
uproar was appalling. Agnes threw herself upon 
the ground, hid her face in her hands, and there 
lay until it was over. As soon as she felt the sun 
shining on her, she rose. There was the city far 



Il8 THE WISE WOMAN. 



away on the horizon ! Without once turning to 
take a farewell look at the place she was leaving, 
she set off, as fast as her feet would carry her, in 
the direction of the city. So eager was she that 
again and again she fell, but only to get up and 
run on faster than before. 




CHAPTER IX. 

TTHE shepherdess carried Rosamond home, gave 
her a warm bath in the tub in which she 
washed her linen, made her some bread-and-milk, 
and after she had eaten it, put her to bed in 
Agnes*s crib, where she slept all the rest of that 
day and all the following night. 

When at last she opened her eyes, it was to see 
around her a far poorer cottage than the one she 
had left — ^very bare and uncomfortable indeed, she 
might well have thought; but she had come 
through such troubles of late, in the way of hunger 
and weariness and cold and fear, that she was not 



120 THE WISE WOMAN. 

altogether in her ordinary mood of fault-finding, 
and so was able to lie enjoying the thought that at 
length she was safe, and going to be fed and kept 
warm. The idea of doing anything in return for 
shelter and food and clothes, did not, however, even 
cross her mind. 

But the shepherdess was one of that plentiful 
number who can be wiser concerning other women's 
children than concerning their own. Such will 
often give you very tolerable hints as to how you 
ought to manage your children, and will find fault 
neatly enough with the system you are trying to 
carry out ; but all their wisdom goes off in talking, 
and there is none left for doing what they have 
themselves said. There is one road talk never finds, 
and that is the way into the talker's own hands and 
feet And such never seem to know themselves — 
not even when they are reading about themselves 
in print. Still, not being specially blinded in any 




A PARABLE. 121 



direction but their own, they can sometimes even 
act with a little sense towards children who are not 
theirs. They are affected with a sort of blindness 
like that which renders some people incapable of 
seeing except sideways. 

She came up to the bed, looked at the princess, 
and saw that she was better. But she did not like 
her much. There was no mark of a princess about 
her, and never had been since she began to run 
alone. True, hunger had brought down her fat 
cheeks, but it had not turned down her impudent 
nose, or driven the sullenness and greed from her 
mouth. Nothing but the wise woman could do 
that — and not even she, without the aid of the 
princess herself. So the shepherdess thought what 
a poor substitute she had got for her own lovely 
Agnes — ^who was in fact equally repulsive, only in 
a way to which she had got used ; for the sel- 
fishness in her love had blinded her to the thin 



122 THE WISE WOMAN. 

pinched nose and the mean self-satisfied mouth. 
It was well for the princess, though, sad as it is to 
say, that the shepherdess did not take to her, for 
then she would most likely have only done her 
harm instead of good. 

" Now, my girl," she said, "you must get up and 
do something. We can't keep idle folk here." 

" I'm not a folk," said Rosamond ; " Tm a 
princess." 

" A pretty princess — with a nose like that ! And 
all in rags too ! If you tell such stories, I shall 
soon let you know what I think of you." 

Rosamond then understood that the mere calling 
herself a princess, without having anything to show 
for it, was of no use. She obeyed and roge, for she 
was hungry ; but she had to sweep the floor ere she 
had anything to eat. 

The shepherd came in to breakfast, and was 
kinder than his wife. He took her up in his arms 




A PARABLE. 123 



and would have kissed her ; but she took it as an 
insult from a man whose hands smelt of tar, and 
kicked and screamed with rage. The poor man, 
finding he had made a mistake, set her down at 
once. But to look at the two, one might well have 
judged it condescension rather than rudeness in 

such a man to kiss such a child. He was tall, and 
almost stately, with a thoughtful forehead, bright 
eyes, eagle nose, and gentle mouth ; while the 
princess was such as I have described her. 

Not content with being set down and let alone, 
she continued to storm and scold at the shepherd, 
crying she was a princess, and would like to know 
what right he had to touch her! But he only 
looked down upon her from the height of his tall 
person with a benignant smile, regarding her as a 
spoiled little ape whose mother had flattered her by 
calling her a princess. 

" Turn her out of doors, the ungrateful hussy ! " 



124 THE WISE WOMAN. 



cried his wife. " With your bread and your milk 
inside her ugly body, this is what she gives you for 
it! Troth, I'm paid for carrying home such an 
ill-bred tramp in my arms ! My own poor angel 
Agnes ! As if that ill-tempered toad were one ' 
hair like her ! " 

These words drove the princess beside herself ; 
for those who are most given to abuse can least 
endure it. With fists and feet and teeth, as was 
her wont, she rushed at the shepherdess, whose 
hand was already raised to deal her a sound box 
on the ear, when a better appointed minister of 
vengeance suddenly showed himself. Bounding in 
at the cottage door came one of the sheep-dogs, 
who was called Prince, and whom I shall not refer 
to with a whichf because he was a very superior 
animal indeed, even for a sheep-dog, which is the 
most intelligent of dogs : he flew at the princess, 
knocked her down, and commenced shaking her so 




A PARABLE. I25 



violently as to tear her miserable clothes to pieces. 
Used, however, to mouthing little lambs, he took 
care not to hurt her much, though for her good he 
left her a blue nip or two, by way of letting her 
imagine what biting might be. His master, 
knowing he would not injure her, thought it better 
not to call him off, and in half a minute he left her 
of his own accord, and, casting a glance of indignant 
rebuke behind him as he went, walked slowly to 
the hearth, where he laid himself down with his tail 
towards her. She rose, terrified almost to death, 

« 

and would have crept again into Agnes*s crib for 
refuge ; but the shepherdess cried — 

" Come, come, princess ! Til have no skulking to 
bed in the good daylight ' Go and clean your 
master's Sunday boots there." 

"I will not!" screamed the princess, and ran 
from the house. 

" Prince ! " cried the shepherdess, and up jumped 



126 THE WISE WOMAN. 



the dog, and looked in her face, wagging his 
bushy tail. 

" Fetch her back," she said, pointing to the door. 

With two or three bounds Prince caught the 
princess, again threw her down, and taking her by 
her clothes dragged her back into the cottage, and 
dropped her at his mistress* feet, where she lay like 
a bundle of rags. 

" Get up," said the shepherdess. 

Rosamond got up, as pale as death. 

" Go and clean the boots." 

" I don't know how." 

" Go and try. There are the brushes, and yonder 
is the blacking pot." 

Instructing her how to black boots, it came into 
the thought of the shepherdess what a fine thing it 
would be if she could teach this miserable little 
wretch, so forsaken and ill-bred, to be a good, 
well-behaved, respectable child. She was hardly 



A PARABLE. 12/ 



the woman to do it, but everything well meant is a 
help, and she had the wisdom to beg her husband 
to place Prince under her orders for a while, and 
not take him to the hill as usual, that he might help 
her in getting the princess into order. 

When her husband was gone, and his boots, with 
the aid of her own finishing touches, at last quite 
respectably brushed, the shepherdess told the 
princess that she might go and play for a while, 
only she must not go out of sight of the cottage 
door. 

The princess went right gladly, with the firm 
intention, however, of getting out of sight by slow 
degrees, and then at once taking to her heels. 
But no sooner was she over the threshold than the 
shepherdess said to the dog, " Watch her ; " and 
out shot Prince. 

The moment she saw him, Rosamond threw 
herself on her face, trembling from head to foot 



128 THE WISE WOMAN. 

But the dog had no quarrel with her, and of the 
violence against which he always fdt bound to 
protest in dog fashion, there was no sign in the 
prostrate shape before him ; so he poked his nose 
under her, turned her over, and began licking her 
face and hands. When she saw that he meant to 
be friendly, her love for animals, which had had no 
indulgence for a long time now, came wide awake, 
and in a little while they were romping and 
rushing about, the best friends in the world. 

Having thus seen one enemy, as she thought, 
wchanged to a friend, she began to resume her former 
plan, and crept cunningly farther and farther. At 
length she came to a little hollow, and instantly 
rolled down into it. Finding then that she was 

•v. 

out of sight of the cottage, she ran off at full speed. 

But she had not gone more than a dozen paces 

when she heard a growling rush behind her, and 

4Jie next instant was on the ground, with the dog 



A PARABLE. 129 



Standing over her, showing his teeth, and flaming 
at her with his eyes. She threw her arms round 
his neck, and immediately he licked her face, and 
let her get up. But the moment she would have 

I 

moved a step farther from the cottage, there he 
was in front of her, growling and showing his teeth. 
She saw it was of no use, and went back with him. 

Thus was the princess provided with a dog for a 
private tutor — just the right sort for her. 

Presently the shepherdess appeared at the door 
and called her. She would have disregarded the 
summons, but Prince did his best to let her know 
that, until she could obey herself, she must obey 
him. So she went into the cottage, and there the 
shepherdess ordered her to peel the potatoes for 
dinner. She sulked and refused. Here Prince 
could do nothing to help his mistress, but she had 
not to go far to find another ally. 

"Very well, Miss Princess!" she said; "we shall 

K 

i 



130 THE WISE WOMAN. 



soon see how vou like to go without when dinner- 
time comes." 

Now, the princess had very little foresight, and the 
idea of future hunger would have moved her little ; 
but happily, from her game of romps with Prince, 
she had begun to be hungry already, and so the 
threat had force. She took the knife and began Jto 
peel the potatoes. 

By slow degrees the princess improved a little. 
A flew more outbreaks of passion, and a few more 
savage attacks from Prince, and she had learned to 
try to restrain herself when she felt the passion 
coming on ; while a few dinnerless afternoons 
entirely opened her eyes to the necessity of working 
in order to eat. Prince was her first, and Hunger 
her second dog-counsellor. 

But a still better thing was that she soon grew 
very fond of Prince. Towards the gaining of her 
affections, he had three advantages : first, his nature 




A PARABLE. I3I 



was inferior to hers ; next, he was a beast ; and last, 
she was afraid of him ; for so spoiled was she that 
she could more easily love what was below than 
what was above her, and a beast than one of her 
own kind, and indeed could hardly have ever come 
to love anything much that she had not first learned 
to fear, and the white teeth and flaming eyes of the 
angry Prince were more terrible to her than any- 
thing had yet been, except those of the wolf, which 
she had now forgotten. Then, again, he was such a 
delightful playfellow, that, so long as she neither 
lost her temper, nor went against orders, she might 
do almost anything she pleased with him. In fact, 
such was his influence upon her, that she who had 
scoffed at the wisest woman in the whole world, and 
derided the wishes of her own father and mother, 
came at length to regard this dog as a superior 
being, and to look up to him as well as love him. 
And this was best of all. 



I 



y^ 



132 THE WISE WOMAK. 

The improvement upon her, in the course of a 
month, was plain. She had quite ceased to go into 
passions, and had actually begun to take a little 
interest in her work and try to do it well. 

Still, the change was mostly an outside one. I 
do not mean that she was pretending. Indeed she 
had never been given to pretence of any sort But 
the change was not in Aer, only in her mood A 
second change of circumstances would have soon 
brought a second change of behaviour; and so long 
as that was possible, she continued the same sort 
of person she had always been. But if she had 
not gained much, a triSe had been gained for her : 
a little quietness and order of mind, and hence a 
somewhat greater possibility of the first idea of 
right arising in it, whereupon she would b^in to 
see what a wretched creature she was, and must 
continue until she herself was right 

Meantime the wise woman had been watching 



A PARABLE. 1 33 



her when she least fancied it^ and taking note of the 
change that was passing upon her. Out of the 
large eyes of a gentle sheep she had been watching 
her — a sheep that puzzled the shepherd ; for every 
now and then she would appear in his flock, and he 
would catch sight of her two or three times in a 
day, sometimes for days together, yet he never saw 
her when he looked for her, and never when he 
counted the flock into the fold at night He knew 
she was not one of his ; but where could she come 
from, and where could she go to ? For there was 
no other flock within many miles, and he never 
could get near enough to her to see whether or not 
she was marked. Nor was Prince of the least use 
to him for the unravelling of the mystery; for 

r 

although, as often as he told him to fetch the 
strange sheep, he went bounding to her at once, it 
was only to lie down at her feet 

At length, however, the wise woman had made 



134 THE WISE WOMAN. 



up her mind, and after that the strange sheep no 
longer troubled the shepherd. 

As Rosamond improved, the shepherdess grew 
kinder. She gave her all Agnes's clothes, and 
began to treat her much more like a daughter. 
Hence she had a great deal of liberty after the 
little work required of her was over, and would 
often spend hours at a time with the shepherd, 
watching the sheep and the dogs, and learning a 
little from seeing how Prince, and others as well, 
managed their charge — how they never touched 
the sheep that did as they were told and turned 
when they were bid, but jumped on a disobedient 
flock, and ran along their backs, biting, and 
barking, and half choking themselves with mouth- 
fuls of their wool. 

Then also she would play with the brooks, and 
learn their songs, and build bridges over them. 
And sometimes she would be seized with such 



A PARABLE. 1 35 



delight of heart that she would spread out her 
arms to the wind, and go rushing up the hill 
till her breath left her, when she would tumble 
down in the heather and lie there till it came back 
again. 

A noticeable change had by this time passed 
also on her countenance. Her coarse, shapeless 
mouth had begun to show a glimmer of lines and 
curves about it, and the fat had not returned with 
the roses to her cheeks, so that her eyes looked 
larger than before ; while, more noteworthy still, 
the bridge of her nose had grown higher, so that it 
was less of the impudent, insignificant thing in- 
herited from a certain great-great-great-grand- 
mother, who had little else to leave, her. For a 
long time it had fitted her very well, for it was just 
like her ; but now there was ground for alteration, 
and already the granny who gave it her would not 
have recognized it. It was growing a little liker 



136 THE WISE WOMAX. 



Prince's, and Prince's was a long, perceptive, 
sagacious nose — one that was seldom mistaken. 

One day, about noon, while the sheep were 
mostly lying down, and the shepherd, having left 
them to the care of the dogs, was himself stretched 
under the shade of a rock a little way apart, and 
the princess sat knitting, with Prince at her feet, 
lying in wait for a snap at a great fly — for even he 
had his follies — Rosamond saw a poor woman 
come toiling up the hill, but took little notice of 
her until she was passing, a few yards off, when she 
heard her utter the dog's name in a low voice. 

Immediately on the summons. Prince started up 
and followed her — ^with hanging head, but gently 
wagging tail. At first the princess thought he was 
merely taking observations, and consulting with his 
nose whether she was respectable or not, but she 
soon saw that he was following her in meek 
submission. Then she sprung to her feet and 



A PARABLE. 1 37 



cried, " Prince ! Prince ! " But Prince only turned 
his head and gave her an odd look, as if he were 
trying to smile and could not Then the princess 
grew angry, and ran after him, shouting, " Prince, 
come here directly." Again Prince turned his 
head, but this time to growl and show his teeth. 

The princess flew into one ofherforgotton rages, 
and picking up a stone, flung it at the woman. 
Prince turned and darted at her, with fury in his 
eyes, and his white teeth gleaming. At the awful 
sight the princess turned also, and would have fled, ' 
but he was upon her in a moment, and threw her 
to the ground, and there she lay. 

It was evening when she came to herself A 
cool twilight wind, that somehow seemed to come 
all the way from the stars, was blowing upon her. 
The poor woman and Prince, the shepherd and his 
sheep, were all gone, and she was left alone with 
the wind upon the heather. 



138 THE WISE WOMAN. 



She felt sad, weak, and, perhaps for the first time 
in her life, a little ashamed. The violence of which 
she had been guilty had vanished from her spirit, 
and now lay in her memory with the calm morning 
behind it, while in front the quiet dusky night was 
now closing in the loud shame betwixt a double 
peace. Between the two her passion looked ugly. 
It pained her to remember. She felt it was hateful, 
and hers. 

But, alas. Prince was gone ! That horrid woman 
had taken him away ! The fury rose again in her 
heart, and raged — until it came to her mind how 
her dear Prince would have flown at her throat if 
he had seen her in such a passion. The memory 
calmed her, and she rose and went home. There, 
perhaps, she would find Prince, for surely he could 
never have been such a silly dog as to go away 
altogether with a strange woman ! 

She opened the door and went in. Dogs were 




A PARABLE. 1 39 



asleep all about the cottage, it seemed to her, but 
nowhere was Prince. She crept away to her little 
bed, and cried herself asleep. 

In the morning the shepherd and shepherdess 
were indeed glad to find she had come home, for 
they thought she had run away. 

" Where is Prince ? " she cried, the moment she 
waked. 

" His mistress has taken him," answered the 
shepherd. :'. 

** Was that woman his mistress ? " 

"I fancy so. He followed her as if he had 
known her all his life. I am very sorry to lose him, 
though." 

The poor woman had gone close past the rock 
where the shepherd lay. He saw her coming, and 
thought of the strange sheep which had been 
feeding beside him when he lay down. "Who can 
she be ? " he said to himself; but when he noted 



143 THE WISE WOMAN. 



how Prince followed her, without even looking up 
at him as he passed, he remembered how Prince 
liad come to him. And this was how : as he lay 
in bed one fierce winter morning, just about to rise^ 
he heard the voice of a woman call to him through 
the storm, " Shepherd, I have brought you a dog. 
Be good to him. I will come again and fetch him 
away." He dressed as quickly as he could, and 
went to the door. It was half snowed up, but on 
the top of the white mound before it stood Prince, 
And now he had gone as mysteriously as he had 
come, and he felt sad. 

Rosamond was very sorry too, and hence when 
she saw the looks of the shepherd and shepherdess, 
she was able to understand them. And she tried 
for a while to behave better to them because of 
their sorrow. So the loss of the dog brought them 
all nearer to each other. 



I 



CHAPTER X. 



A FTER the thunder-storm Agnes did not meet 
with a single obstruction or misadventure. 
Everybody was strangely polite, gave her whatever 
she desired, and answered her questions, but asked 
none in return, and looked all the time as if her 
departure would be a relief. They were afraid, in 
fact, from her appearance, lest she should tell them 
that she was lost, when they would be bound,, 
on pain of public execution, to take her to the 
palace. 

But no sooner had she entered the city than 
she saw it would hardly do to present herself as a 



142 THE WISE WOMAN. 



lost child at the palace gates ; for how were they 
to know that she was not an impostor, especially 
since she really was one, having run away from the 
wise woman ? So she wandered about looking at 
everything until she was tired, and bewildered by 
the noise and confusion all around her. The 
wearier she got, the more was she pushed in every 
direction. Having been used to a whole hill to 
wander upon, she was very awkward in the crowded 
streets, and often on the point of being run over by 
the horses, which seemed to her to be going every 
way like a frightened flock. She spoke to several 
persons, but no one stopped to answer her ; and at 
length her courage giving way, she felt lost indeed, 
and began to cry. A soldier saw her, and asked 
what was the matter. 

" IVe nowhere to go to," she sobbed. 

"Where's your mother ? " asked the soldier. 

" I don't know," answered Agnes. " I was 



A PARABLE. I43 



carried off by an old woman, who then went away 
and left me. I don*t know where she is, or where 
I am myself." 

" Come," said the soldier, " this is a case for his 
Majesty." 

So saying he took her by the hand, led her to 
the palace, and begged an audience of the king and 
queen. The porter glanced at Agnes, immediately 
admitted them, and showed them into a great 
splendid room, where the king and queen sat every 
day to review lost children, in the hope of one day 
thus finding their Rosamond. But they were by 
this time beginning to get tired of it. The moment 
they cast their eyes upon Agnes, the queen threw 
back her head, threw up her hands, and cried 
*' What a miserable, conceited, white-faced little 
ape ! " and the king turned upon the soldier in 
wrath, and cried, forgetting his own decree, " What 
do you mean by bringing such a dirty, vulgar- 



144 ^HK ^ISS WOMAN. 

looking, pert creature into my palace ? The dullest 
soldier in my army could never for a moment 
imagine a child like that^ one hair's-breadth like the 
lovely angel we lost ? " 

" I humbly beg your Majesty's pardon," said the 
soldier, "but what was I to do? There stands 
your Majesty's proclamation in gold letters on the 
brazen gates of the palace." 

"I shall have it taken down," said the king.. 
« Remove the child." 

"Please your Majesty, what am I to do with 
her ? " 

" Take her home with you." 

" I have six already, sire, and do not want her.'* 

" Then drop her where you picked her up." 

" If I do, sire, some one else will find her, and 
bring her back to your Majesties." 

" That will never do," said the king. " I cannot 
bear to look at her." 



A PARABLE. I4S 



" For all her ugliness," said the queen, " she is 
plainly lost, and so is our Rosamond." 

" It may be only a pretence, to get into the 
palace," said the king. 

" Take her to the head scullion, soldier," said the 
queen, " and tell her to make her useful. If she 
should find out she has been pretending to be lost, 
she must let me know." 

The soldier was so anxious to get rid of her, that 
he caught her up in his arms, hurried her from the 
room, found his way to the scullery, and gave her, 
trembling with fear, in charge to the head maid, 
with the queen's message. 

As it was evident that the queen had no favour 
for her, the servants did as they pleased with her, 
and often treated her harshly. Not one amongst 
them liked her; nor was it any wonder, seeing that, 
with every step she took from the wise woman's 
house, she had grown more contemptible, for she 



146 THE WISE WOMAN. 

had grown more conceited. Every civil answer 
given her, she attributed to the impression she 
made, not to the desire to get rid of her ; and every 
kindness, to approbation of her looks and speech^ 
instead of friendliness to a lonely child. Hence by 
this time she was twice as odious as before ; for 
whoever has had such severe treatment as the wise 
woman gave her, and is not the better for it, always 
grows worse than before. They drove her about, 
boxed her ears on the smallest provocation, laid 
everything to her charge, called her all manner of 
contemptuous names, jeered and scoffed at her 
awkwardnesses, and made her life so miserable that 
she was in a fair way to forget everything she had 
learned, and know nothing but how to clean sauce- 
pans and kettles. 

They would not have been so hard upon her, 
however, but for her irritating behaviour. She 
dared not refuse to do as she was told, but she 




A PARABLE. 1 47 



obeyed now with a pursed-up mouth, and now 
with a contemptuous smile. The only thing that 
sustained her was her constant contriving how to 
get out of the painful position in which she found 
herself. There is but one true way, however, of 
getting out of any position we may be in, and that 
is, to do the work of it so well that we grow fit for 
a better: I need not say this was not the plan 
upon which Agnes was cunning enough to fix. 

She had soon learned from the talk around her 
the reason of the proclamation which had brought 
her hither. 

" Was the lost princess so very beautiful } " she 
said one day to the youngest of her fellow-servants. 

" Beautiful ! " screamed the maid ; "she was just 
the ugliest little toad you ever set eyes upon." 

" What was she like ? " asked Agnes. 

"She was about your size, and quite as ugly, 
only not in the same way ; for she had red cheeks, 



148 THE VISE WOMAN. 



and a cocked little nose, and the biggest, ugliest 
mouth you ever saw." 

Agnes fell a thinking. 

"Is there a picture of her anywhere in the 
palace ? " she asked. 

" How should I know ? You can ask a house- 
maid." 

Agnes soon learned that there was one, and 
contrived to get a peep of it Then she was 
certain of what she had suspected from the 
description given of her, namely, that she was the 
same she had seen in the picture at the wise 
woman's house. The conclusion followed, that the 
lost princess must be staying with her father and 
mother, for assuredly in the picture she wore one of 
her frocks. 

She went to the head scullion, and, with humble 
manner but proud heart, bagged her to procure for 
her the favour of a word with the queen. 



A PARABLE. 149 



"A likely thing indeed!" was the answer, 
accompanied by a resounding box on the ear. 

She tried the head cook next, but with no better 
success, and so was driven to her meditations again, 
the result of which was that she began to drop 
hints that she knew something about the princess. 
This came at length to the queen's ears, and she 
sent for her. 

Absorbed in her own selfish ambitions, Agnes 
never thought of the risk to which she was 
about to expose her parents, but told the queen 
that in her wanderings she had caught sight of just 
such a lovely creature as she described the princess, 
only dressed like a peasant — saying that, if the 
king would permit her to go and look for her, she 
had little doubt of bringing her back safe and 
sound within a few weeks. 

But although she spoke the truth, she had such a 
look of cunning on her pinched face that the queen 



150 THE WISE WOMAX. 



could not possibly trust her, but believed thstt she 
made the proposal merely to get away, and have 
money given her for her journey. Still there was a 
chance, and she would not say anything until she 
had consulted the king. 

Then they had Agnes up before the lord 
chancellor, who, after much questioning of her, 
arrived at last, he thought, at some notion of the 
part of the country described by her — that was, if 
she spoke the truth, which, from her looks and 
behaviour, he also considered entirely doubtful. 
Thereupon she was ordered back to the kitchen, 
and a band of soldiers, under a clever la\vyer, sent 
out to search every foot of the supposed region. 
They were commanded not to return until they 
brought with them, bound hand and foot, such a 
shepherd-pair as that of which they received a full 
description. 



And now Agnes was worse off than before. For 



A PARABLE. I5I 



to her other miseries was added the fear of what 

would befall her when it was discovered that the 

persons of whom they were in quest, and whom she 

was certain they must find, were her own father and 

mother. 

By this time the king and queen were so tired of 

seeing lost children, genuine or pretended — for they 

cared for no child any longer than there seemed a 

chance of its turning out their child — that, with 

this new hope, which, however poor and vague at 

first, soon began to grow upon such imaginations 

as they had, they commanded the proclamation to 

be taken down from the palace gates, and directed 

« 
the various sentries to admit no child whatever, 

lost or found, be the reason or pretence what it 

might, until further orders. 

"I'm sick of children!" said the king to his 

secretary, as he finished dictating the direction. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A FTER Prince was gone, the princess, by de- 

gfrees, fell back into some of her old bad ways, 

from which only the presence of the dog, not her 

own betterment, had kept her. She never grew 

nearly so selfish again, but she began to let her 

« 

angry old self lift up its head once more, until by 
and by she grew so bad that the sheperdess de- 
clared she should not stop in the house a day 
longer, for she was quite unendurable. 

" It is all very well for you, husband," she said, 
" for you haven't her all day about you, and only 
see the best of her. But if you had her in work 



A PARABLE. I53 



instead of play hours, you would like her no better 
than I do. And then it's not her ugly passions 
only, but when she's in one of her tantrums, its im- 
possible to get any work out of her. At such 
times she's just as obstinate as — as — as — " 

She was going to say "as Agnes," but the 
feelings of a mother overcame her, and she could 
not utter the words. 

" In fact," she said instead, " she makes my life 
miserable." 

The shepherd felt he had no right to tell his wife 
she must submit to have her life made miserable, 
and therefore, although he was really much at- 
tached to Rosamond, he would not interfere ; and 
the sheperdess told her she must look out for 
another place. 

The princess was, however, this much better 
than before, even in respect of her passions, that 
they were not quite so bad, and after one was over, 



154 THE WISE WOMAN. 

she was really ashamed of it But not once, ever 
since the departure of Prince, had she tried to 
check the rush of the evil temper when it came 
upon her. She hated it when she was out of it, 
and that was something ; but while she was in it, 
she went full swing with it, wherever the prince of 
the power of it pleased to carry her. Nor was this 
all : although she might by this time have known 
well enough that as soon as she was out of it she 
was certain to be ashamed of it, she would yet 
justify it to herself with twenty different arguments 
that looked very good at the time, but would have 
looked very poor indeed afterwards, if then she had 
ever remembered them. 

She was not sorry to leave the shepherd's cot- 
tage, for she felt certain of soon finding her way 
back to her father and mother; and she would, 
indeed, have set out long before, but that her foot 
had somehow got hurt when Prince gave her his 



A PARABLE. I 55 



last admonition, and she had never since been able 
for long walks, which she sometimes blamed as 
the cause of her temper growing worse. But if 
people are good-tempered only when they are 
comfortable, what thanks have they.? Her foot 
was now much better; and as soon as the shep- 
herdess had thus spoken, she resolved to set out 
at once, and work or beg her way home. At the 
moment she was quite unmindful of what she owed 
the good people, and, indeed, was as yet incapable 
of understanding a tenth part of her obligation to 
them. So she bade them good-bye without a tear, 
and limped her way down the hill, leaving the 
shepherdess weeping, and the shepherd looking 
very grave. 

When she reached the valley, she followed the 
course of the stream, knowing only that it would 
lead her away from the hill where the sheep fed, 
into richer lands where were farms and cattle. 



156 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Rounding one of the roots of the hill, she saw 
before her a poor woman walking slowly along the 
road with a burden of heather upon her back, and 
presently passed her, but had gone only a few 
paces farther when she heard her calling after her 
in a kind old voice — 

" Your shoe-tie is loose, my child." 

But Rosamond was growing tired, for her foot 
had become painful, and so she was cross, and 
neither returned answer, nor paid heed to the 
warning. For when we are cross, all our other 
faults grow busy, and poke up their ugly heads 
like maggots, and the princess's old dislike to 
doing anything that came to her with the least air 
of advice about it returned in full force. 

" My child," said the woman again, " if you don't 
fasten your shoe-tie, it will make you fall." 

"Mind your own business," said Rosamond^ 
without even turning her head, and had not gone 




A PARABLE. 1 57 



more than three steps when she fell flat on her face 
on the path. She tried to get up, but the effort 
forced from her a scream, for she had sprained the 
ankle of the foot that was already lame. 

The old woman was by her side instantly. 

"Where are you hurt, child ? " she asked, throwing 
down her burden and kneeling beside her. 

'* Go away," screamed Rosamond. " You made 
me fall, you bad woman ! " 

The woman made no reply, but began to feel 
her joints, and soon discovered the sprain. Then, 
in spite of Rosamond's abuse, and the violent 
pushes and even kicks she gave her, she took the 
hurt ankle in her hands, and stroked and pressed 
it, gently kneading it, as it were, with her thumbs, 
as if coaxing every particle of the muscles into its 
right place. Nor had she done so long before Rosa 
mond lay still. At length she ceased, and said : — 

" Now, my child, you may get up." 



158 THE WISE WOMAN. 



" I can't get up, and I'm not your child," cried 
Rosamond. " Go away." 

Without another word the woman left her, took 
up her burden, and continued her journey. 

In a little while Rosamond tried to get up, and 
not only succeeded, but found she could walk, and, 
indeed, presently discovered that her ankle and foot 
also were now perfectly well. 

" I wasn't much hurt after all," she said to her- 
self, nor sent a single grateful thought after the 
poor woman, whom she speedily passed once more 
upon the road without even a greeting. 

Late in the afternoon she came to a spot where 
the path divided into two, and was taking the one 
she liked the look of better, when she started at 
the sound of the poor woman's voice, whom she 
thought she had left far behind, again calling her. 
She looked round," and there she was, toiling under 
her load of heather as before. 



A PARABLE. 



IS9 



"You are taking the wrong turn, child/' she 
cried. 

" How can you tell that ?" said Rosamond. " You 
know nothing about where I want to go." 

"I know that road will take you where you 
don't want to go," said the woman. 

" I shall know when I get there, then," returned 
Rosamond, " and no thanks to you." 

She set off running. The woman took the other 
path, and was soon out of sight. 

By and by, R6samond found herself in the midst 
of a peat-moss — a flat, lonely, dismal, black country. 
She thought, however, that the road would soon 
lead her across to the other side of it among the 
farms, and went on without anxiety. But the 
stream, which had hitherto been her guide, had now 
vanished ; and when it began to grow dark, 
Rosamond found that she could no longer dis- 
tinguish the track. She turned, therefore, but only 



l60 THK WISK WOMAN. 



to find that the same darkness covered it behind 
as well as before. Still she made the attempt to 
go back by keeping as direct a line as she could, 
for the path was straight as an arrow. But she 
could not see enough even to start her in a line^ 
and she had not gone far before she found herself 
hemmed in, apparently on every side, by ditches 
and pools of black, dismal, slimy water. And now 
it was so dark that she could see nothing more 
than the gleam of a bit of clear sky now and then 
in the water. Again and again she stepped knee- 
deep in black mud, and. once tumbled down in the 
shallow edge of a terrible pool ; after which' she 
gave up the attempt to escape the meshes of the 
watery net, stood still, and began to cry bitterly, 
despairingly. She saw now that her unreasonable 
anger had made her foolish as well as rude, and 
felt tliat she was justly punished for her wickedness 
to the poor woman who had been so friendly to 



A PARABLE. l6l 



her. What would Prince think of her, if he knew ? 
She cast herself on the ground, hungry, and cold, 
and weary. 

Presently, she thought she saw long creatures 
come heaving out of the black pools. A toad 
jumped upon her, and she shrieked, and sprang to 
her feet, and would have run away headlong, when 
she spied in the distance a faint glimmer. She 
thought it was a Will-o'-the-wisp. What could he 
be after? Was he looking for her? She dared 
not run, lest he should see and pounce upon her. 
The light came nearer, and grew brighter and 
larger. Plainly, the little fiend was looking for her 
— ^he would torment her. After many twistings and 
turnings among the pools, it came straight towards 
her, and she would have shrieked, but that terror 
made her dumb. 

It came nearer and nearer, and lo ! it was borne 
by a dark figure, with a burden on its back : it was 

M 



1 62 THE WISE WOMAN. 



the poor woman, and no demon, that was looking 
for her! She gave a scream of joy, fell down 
weeping at her feet, and clasped her knees. Then 
the poor woman threw away her burden, laid down 
her lantern, took the princess up in her arms^ folded 
her cloak around her, and having taken up her 
lantern again, carried her slowly and carefully 
through the midst of the black pools, winding 
hither and thither. AH night long she carried her 
thus, slowly and wearily, until at length the dark- 
ness grew a little thinner, an uncertain hint of 
light came from the east, and the poor woman, 
stopping on the brow of a little hill, opened her 
cloak, and set the princess down. 

" I can carry you no farther," she said. " Sit 
there on the grass till the light comes. I will 
stand here by you." 

Rosamond had been asleep. Now she rubbed 
her eyes and looked, but it was too dark to see 



A PARABLE. 163 



anything more, than that there was a sky over her 
head. Slowly the light grew, until she could see 
the form of the poor woman standing in front of 
her; and as it went on growing, she began to 
think she had seen her somewhere before, till all 
at once she thought of the wise woman, and saw it 
must be she. Then she was so ashamed that she 
bent down her head, and could look at her no 
longer. But the poor woman spoke, and the voice 
was that of the wise woman, and every word went 
deep into the heart of the princess. 

" Rosamond," she said, "all this time, ever since 
I carried you from your father's palace, I have 
been doing what I could to make you a lovely 
creature : ask yourself how far I have succeeded." 

AH her past story, since she found herself first 
under the wise woman's cloak, arose, and glided 
past the inner eyes of the princess, arid she 
saw, and in a measure understood it alL But 



164 THE WISE WOMAN. 



she sat with her eyes on the ground, and made no 
sign. 

Then said the wise woman :— 

** Below there is the forest which surrounds my 
house. I am going home. If you please to come 
there to me, I will help you, in a way I could not 
do now, to be good and lovely. I will wait you 
there all day, but if you start at once, you may be 
there long before noon. I shall have your break- 
fast waiting for you. One thing more : the beasts 
have not yet all gone home to their holes ; but J 
give you my word, not one will touch you so long 
as you keep coming nearer to my house." 

She ceased. Rosamond sat waiting to hear 
something more; but nothing came. She looked 
up; she was alone. 

Alone once more! Always being left alone, 
because she would not yield to what was right I 
Oh, how safe she had felt under the wise woman's 



A PARABLE. 165 



cloak ! She had indeed been good to her, and she 
had in return behaved like one of the hyaenas of 
the awful wood ! What a wonderful house it was 
she lived in ! And again all her own story came 
up into her brain from her repentant heart 

**Why didn't she take me with her ?" she said, 
*' I would have gone gladly." And she wept. But 
her own conscience told her that, in the very 
middle of her shame and desire to be good, she had 
returned no answer to the words of the wise 
woman ; she had sat like a tree-stump, and done 
nothing. She tried to say there was nothing to be 
done ; but she knew at once that she could have 
told the wise woman she had been very wicked, 
and asked her to take her with her. Now there was 
nothing to be done. 

"Nothing to be done!" said her conscience; 
"Cannot you rise, and walk down the hill, and 
through the wood ? " 



l66 THE WISE WOMAN. 



"But the Wild beasts!" 

" There it is ! You don't believe the wise woman 
yet! Did she not tell you the beasts would not 
touch you?*' 

" But they are so horrid ! ** 

"Yes, they are ; but it would be far better to be 
eaten up alive by them than live on such a worth- 
less creature as you are. Why, you're not fit to be 
thought about by any but bad ugly creatures." 

This was how herself talked to her. 



CHAPTER XII. 

A LL at once she jumped to her feet, and ran. at 
full speed down the hill and into the wood. 
She heard howlings and yellings on all sides of her, 
but she ran straight on, as near as she could judge. 
Her spirits rose as she ran. Suddenly she saw 
before her, in the dusk of the thick wood, a group 
of some dozen wolves and hyaenas, standing all 
together right in her way, with their green eyes 
fixed upon her staring. She faltered one step, then 
bethought her of what the wise woman had 
promised, and keeping straight on, dashed right 
into the middle of them. They fled howling, as if 



l68 THK WISE WOMAN. 



she had struck them with fire. She was no more 
afraid after that, and ere the sun was up she was 
out of the wood and upon the heath, which no bad 
thing could step upon and live. With the first 
peep of the sun above the horizon, she saw the 
little cottage before her, and ran as fast as she 
could run towards it When she came near it, she 
saw that the door was open, and ran straight into 
the outstretched arms of the wise woman. 

The wise woman kissed her and stroked her hair, 
set her down by the fire, and gave her a bowl of 
bread and milk. 

When she had eaten it, she drew her before her 
where she sat, &nd spoke to her thus : 

" Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature 
instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be 
tried." 

" Is that something terrible ? " asked the princess, 
turning white. 



i 



A PARABLE. 1 69 



" No, my child ; but it is something very difficult 
to come well out of. Nobody who has not been 
tried knows how difficult it is ; but whoever has 
come well out of it, and those who do not overcome 
never do come out of it, always looks back with 
horror, not on what she has come through, but on 
the very idea of the possibility of having failed, 
and being still the same miserable creature as 
before." 

" You will tell me what it is before it begins ? '* 
said the princess. 

" I will not tell you exactly. But I will tell you 
some things to help you. One great danger is that 
perhaps you will think you are in it before it has 
really begun, and say to yourself, 'Oh! this is 
really nothing to me. It may be a trial to some, 
but for me I am sure it is not worth mentioning.' 
And then, before you know, it will be upon you, 
and you will fail utterly and shamefully." 



I TO THE WISE WOXAK. 



" I will be very, very careful,'* said the princess. 
** Only don't let me be frightened." 

" You shall not be frightened, except it be your 
own doing. You are already a brave girl, and 
there is no occasion to try you more that way. I 
saw how you rushed into the middle of the ugly 
creatures; and as they ran from you, so will all 
kinds of evil things, as long as you keep them 
outside of you, and do not open the cottage of your 
heart to let them in. I will tell you something 
more about what you will have to go through. 

" Nobody can be a real princess— do not imagine 
you have yet been anything more than a mock one 
— until she is a princess over herself, that is, until, 
when she finds herself unwilling to do the thing 
that is right, she makes herself do it So long as 
any mo6d she is in makes her do the thing she will 
be sorry for when that mood is over, she is a slave^ 
and no princess. A princess is able to do what is 



A PARABLE. I7I 



right even should she unhappily be in a mood that 
would make another unable to do it. For instance^ 
if you should be cross and angry, you are not a 
whit the less bound to be just, yes, kind even — a 
thing most difficult in such a mood— though ease 
itself in a good mood, loving and sweet Whoever 
does what she is bound to do, be she the dirtiest 
little girl in the street, is a princess, worshipful^ 
honourable. Nay, more; her might goes farther 
than she could send it, for if she act so, the evil 
mood will wither and die, and leave her loving and 
clean. Do you understand me, dear Rosamond ? "" 

As she spoke, the wise woman laid her hand on 
her head, and looked — oh, so lovingly! — into her 
eyes. 

" I am not sure," said the princess, humbly. 

" Perhaps you will understand me better if I say 
it just comes to this, that you must not do what is 
wrong, however much you are inclined to do it, and 



172 THE WISE WOMAN. 



you must do what is right, however much you are 
disinclined to do it" 

'' I understand that/' said the princess. 

"I am going, then, to put you in one of the 
mood-chambers of which I have many in the house. 
Its mood will come upon you, and you will have to 
deal with it" 

She rose and took her by the hand. The princess 
trembled a little, but never thought of resisting. 

The wise woman led her into the great hall with 
the pictures, and through a door at the farther end, 
opening upon another large hall, which was 
circular, and had doors close to each other all 
round it Of these she opened one, pushed the 
princess gently in, and closed it behind her. 

The princess found herself in her old nursery. 
Her little white rabbit came to meet her in a 
lumping canter as if his back were going to tumble 
over his head. Her nurse, in her rocking-chair by 



\ 



A PARABLE. 1 73 



•I 



the chimney comer, sat just as she had used. The 
fire burned brightly, and on the table were many of 
her wonderful toys, on which, however, she now 
looked with some contempt. Her nurse did not 
seem at all surprised to see her, any more than if 
the princess had but just gone from the room and 
returned again. 

"Oh! how different I am from what I used to 
be ! " thought the princess to herself, looking from 
her toys to her nurse. " The wise woman has done 
me so much good already! I will go and see 
mamma at once, and tell her I am very glad to be 
at home again, and very sorry I was so naughty." 

She went towards the door. 

" Your queen-mamma, princess, cannot see you 
now," said her nurse. 

*' I have yet to learn that it is my part to take 
orders from a servant," said the princess, with 
temper and dignity. 



174 "^HE WISE WOMAN. 



"I beg your pardon, princess." returned her 
tiurse, politely ; " but it is my duty to tell you that 
your queen-mamma is at this moment engaged. 
She is alone with her most intimate friend, the 
Princess of the Frozen Regions." 

"I shall see for myself," returned the princess^ 
l)ridling, and walked to the door. 

Now little bunny, leap-frogging near the door, 
happened that moment to get about her feet, just 
as she was going to open it, so that she tripped and 
fell against it, striking her forehead a good blow^ 
She caught up the rabbit in a rage, and, crying, " It 
is all your fault, you ugly old wretch!" threw it 
with violence in her nurse's face. 

Her nurse caught the rabbit, and held it to her 
face, as if seeking to sooth its fright But the^ 
rabbit looked very limp and odd, and, to her 
amazement, Rosamond presently saw that the 
thing was no rabbit, but a pocket-handkerchief. 



A PARABLE. 1 75 



The next moment she removed it from her face, 
and Rosamond beheld — not her nurse, but the wise 
woman — standing on her own hearth, while she 
herself stood by the doof leading from the cottage 
into the hall. 

"First trial a failure," said the wise woman 
quietly. 

Overcome with shame, Rosamond ran to her, fell 
down on her knees, and hid her face in her dress. 

" Need I say anything } " said the wise woman, 
stroking her hair. 

" No, no," cried the princess. " I am horrid." 

" You know now the kind of thing you have to 
meet : are you ready to try again ? " 

'*May I try again ?" cried the princess, jumping up, 
*' Vm ready. I do not think I shall fail this time." 

" The trial will be harder." 

Rosamond drew in her breath, and set her teeth. 
The wise woman looked at her pitifully, but took 



176 THE WISE WOMAK. 



her by the hand, led her to the round hall, opened 
the same door, and closed it after her. 

The princess expected to find herself again in 
the nursery, but in the wise woman's house no one 
ever has the same trial twice. She was in a 
beautiful garden, full of blossoming trees and the 
loveliest roses and lilies. A lake was in the middle 
of it, with a tiny boat. So delightful was it that 
Rosamond forgot all about how or why she had 
come there, and lost herself in the joy of the 
flowers and the trees and the water. Presently 
came the shout of a child, merry and glad, and 
from a clump of tulip-trees rushed a lovely little 
boy, with his arms stretched out to her. She was 
charmed at the sight, ran to meet him, caught him 
up in her arms, kissed him, and could hardly let 
him go again. But the moment she set him down 
he ran from her towards the lake, looking back as 
he ran, and crying " Come, come." 






A PARABLE. 1 77 



She followed. He made straight for the boat, 
clambered into It, and held out his hand to help 
her in. Then he caught up the little boat-hook, 
and pushed away from the shore : there was a great 
white flower floating a few yards off, and that was 
the little fellow's goal. But, alas ! no sooner had 
Rosamond caught sight of it, huge and glowing as 
a harvest moon, than she felt a great desire to have 
it herself. The boy, however, was in the bows of 
the boat, and caught it first. It had a long stem, 
reaching down to the bottom of the water, and for 
a moment he tugged at it in vain, but at last it 
gave way so suddenly, that he tumbled back with 
the flower into the bottom of the boat. Then 
Rosamond, almost wild at the danger it was in as 
he struggled to rise, hurried to save it, but somehow 
between them it came in pieces, and all its petals 
of fretted silver were scattered about the boat 
When the boy got up, and saw the ruin his com- 

N 



lyS THE WISE WOMAN. 



panion had occasioned, he burst into tears, and 
having the long stalk of the flower still in his hand, 
.struck her with it across the face. It did not hurt 
her much, for he was a very little fellow, but it was 
wet and slimy. She tumbled rather than rushed 
at him, seized him in her arms, tore him from his 
frightened grasp, and flung him into the water. 
His head struck on the boat as he fell, and he sank 
at once to the bottom, where he lay looking up at 
her with white face and open eyes. 

The moment she saw the consequences of her 
deed she was filled with horrible dismay. She 
tried hard to reach down to him through the water, 
but it was far deeper than it looked, and she could 
not. Neither could she get her eyes to leave the 
white face : its eyes fascinated and fixed hers ; and 
there she lay leaning over the boat and staring at 
the death she had made. But a voice crying,. 
"Ally ! Ally!" shot to her heart, and, springing to. 



A PARABLE. I 79 



her feet she saw a lovely lady come running down 
the grass to the brink of the water with her hair 
flying about her head. 

" Wher^ is my Ally ? " she shrieked. 

But Rosamond could not answer, and only stared 
at the lady, as she had before stared at her drowned 
boy. 

Then the lady caught sight of the dead thing at 
the bottom of the water, and rushed in, and, plung- 
ing down, struggled and groped until she reached 
it. Then she rose and stood up with the dead 
body of her little son in her arms, his head hanging 
back, and the water streaming from him. 

" See what you have made of him, Rosamond ! " 
she said, holding the body out to her ; " and this is 
your second trial, and also a failure." 

The dead child melted away from her arms, and 
there she stood, the wise woman, on her own 
hearth, while Rosamond found herself beside the 



I So THE WISE WOMAN. 



little well on the floor of the cottage, with one arm 
wet up to the shoulder. She threw herself on the 
heather-bed and wept from relief and vexation 
both. 

The wise woman walked out of the cottage, shut 
the door, and left her alone. Rosamond was 
sobbing, so that she did not hear her go. When, 
at length she looked up, and saw that the wise 
woman was gone, her misery returned afresh and 
tenfold, and she wept and wailed. The hours 
passed, the shadows of evening began to fall, and 
the wise woman entered 



CHAPTER XIII. 

C HE went straight to the bed, and, taking Rosa- 
mond in her arms, sat down with her by the fire. 

" My poor child ! " she said. " Two terrible 
failures! And the more the harder! They get 
stronger and stronger. What is to be done ? " 

" Couldn't you help me ? " said Rosamond pite- 
ously. 

" Perhaps I could, now you ask me," answered 
the wise woman. "When you are ready to try 
again, we shall see.** 

" I am very tired of myself," said the princess. 
*' But I can't rest till I try again." 



1 82 THE WISE WOMAN. 



" That is the only way to get rid of your weary, 
shadowy self, and find your strong, true self. 
Come, my child ; I will help you all I can, for now 
I can help you." 

Yet again she led her to the same door, and 
seemed to the princess to send her yet again alone 
into the room. She was in a forest, a place half 
wild, half tended. The trees were grand, and full 
of the loveliest birds, of all glowing gleaming, and 
radiant colours, which, unlike the brilliant birds we 
know in our world, sang deliciously, every one 
according to his colour. The trees were not at all 
crowded, but their leaves were so thick, and their 
boughs spread so far, that it was only here and 
there a sunbeam could get straight through. All 
the gentle creatures of a forest were there, but no 
creatures that killed, not even a weasel to kill the ^ 
rabbits, or a beetle to eat the snails out of their 
striped shells. As to the butterflies, words would 




A PARABLE. I 83 



but wrong them if they tried to tell how gorgeous 

they were. The princess's delight was so great 

that she neither laughed nor ran, but walked about 

with a solemn countenance and stately step. 

" But where are the flowers? " she said to herself 

at length. 

They were nowhere. Neither on the high trees, 
nor on the few shrubs that grew here and there 

amongst them, were there any blossoms ; and in 

the grass that grew everywhere there was not a 

single flower to be seen. 

" Ah, well ! " said Rosamond again to herself, 
"where all the birds and butterflies are living 
flowers, we can do without the other sort." 

Still she could not help feeling that flowers were 
wanted to make the beauty of the forest complete. 

Suddenly she came out on a little open glade ; 
and there, on the root of a great oak, sat the 
loveliest little girl, with her lap full of flowers of all 



184 THE WISE WOMAN. 



colours, but of such kinds as Rosamond had never 
before seen. She was playing with them — ^burying 
her hands in them, tumbling them about, and every 
now and then picking one from the rest, and throw- 
ing it away. All the time she never smiled, except 
with her eyes, which were as full as they could hold 
of the laughter of the spirit — a laughter which in 
this world is never heard, only sets the eyes alight 
with a liquid shining. Rosamond drew nearer, for 
the wonderful creature would have drawn a tiger 
to her side, and tamed him on the way. A few 
yards from her, she came upon one of her cast- 
away flowers and stooped to pick it up, as well she 
might where none grew save in her own longing. 
But to her amazement she found, instead of a 
flower thrown away to wither, one fast rooted and 
quite at home. She left it, and went to another ; 
but it also was fast in the soil, and growing com- 
fortably in the warm grass. What could it mean ? 



A PARABLK. 1 85 



One after another she tried, until at length she was 
satisfied that it was the same with every flower the 
little girl threw from her lap. 

She watched then until she saw her throw one, 
and instantly bounded to the spot But the flower 
had been quicker than she : there it grew, fast fixed 
in the earth, and, she thought, looked at her 
roguishly. Something evil moved in her, and she 
plucked it 

" Don't ! don't ! " cried the child. " My flowers 
cannot live in your hands.' 

Rosamond looked at the flower. It was withered 
already. She threw it from her, offended. The 
child rose, with difficulty keeping her lapful to- 
gether, picked it up, carried it back, sat down again, 
spoke to it, kissed it, sang to it — oh! such a sweet, 
childish little song! — the princess never could recall 
a word of it — and threw it away. Up rose its little 
head, and there it was, busy growing again ! 



f> 



f83 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Rosamond's bad temper soon g^ve way: the 
beauty and sweetness of the child had overcome it ; 
and, anxious to make friends with her, she drew 
near, and said : 

" Won't you give me a little flower, pleas^ you 
beautiful child ? " 

"There they are; they are all for you," answered 
the child, pointing with her outstretched .arm and- 
forefinger all round. 

'* But you told me, a minute agp, not to touch 
them." 

" Yes, indeed, I did." 

** They can't be mine, if I'm not to touch thenru*' 

" If, to call them yours, you must kill them, then 
they are not yours, and never, never can be yours. 
They are nobody's when they are dead." 

" But you don't kill them." 

" I don't pull them ; I throw them away. I live 
them." 



A PARABLE. I 87 



9f 



" How is it that you make them grow ? " 

" I say, * You darling ! ' and throw it away, and 
there it is." 

" Where do you get them ? '* 

" In my lap." 

" I wish you would let me throw one away." 

"Have you got any in your lap ? Let me see.' 

" No ; I have none." 

" Then you can't throw one away, if you haven't 
got one." 

" You are mocking me ! " cried the princess. 

** I am not mocking you," said the child, looking 
her full in the face, with reproach in her large blue 
eyes. 

" Oh, that's where the flowers come from ! " said 
the princess to herself, the moment she saw them, 
hardly knowing what she meant 

Then the child rose as if hurt, and quickly threw 
iway all the flowers she had in her lap, but one by 



1 88 THE WISE WOXAX. 



one, and without any sign of anger. When thqr 
were all gone, she stood a moment, and then, in a 
kind of chanting cry, called, two or three times^ 
"Peggy! Peggy! Pefgy!" 

A low, glad cry, like the whinny of a horsey 
answered, and, presently, out of the wood on the 
opposite side of the glade, came gently trotting the 
loveliest little snow-white pony, with great shining 
blue wings, half-lifted from his shoulders. Straight 
towards the little girl, neither hurrying nor linger- 
ing, he trotted with light elastic tread. 

Rosamond*s love for animals broke into a perfect 
passion of delight at the vision. She rushed to 
meet the pony with such haste, that, although 
clearly the best trained animal under the sun, he 
started back, plunged, reared, and struck out with 
his fore feet ere he had time to observe what sort of 
a creature it was that had so startled him. When 
he perceived it was a little girl, he dropped instantly 



A PARABLE. 1 89 



upon all-fours, and content with avoiding her, re- 
sumed his quiet trot in the direction of his mistress. 
Rosamond stood gazing after him In miserable dis- 
appointment. 

When he reached the child, he laid his head 
on her shoulder, and she put her arm up round 
his neck ; and after she had talked to him a 
little, he turned and came trotting back to the 
princess. 

Almost beside herself with joy, she began caress- 
ing him in the rough way which, notwithstanding 
her love for them, she was in the habit of using 
with animals ; and she was not gentle enough, in 
herself even, to see that he did not like it, and was 
only putting up with it for the sake of his mistress. 
But when, that she might jump upon his back, she 
laid hold of one of his wings, and ruffled some of 
the blue feathers, he wheeled suddenly about, gave 
his long tail a sharp whisk which threw her flat on 



190 THE WISS WOMAN. 



the grass, and, trotting back to his mistress, bent 
down his head before her as if asking- excuse for 
ridding himself of the unbearable. 

The princess was furious. She had forgotten all 
her past life up to the time when she first saw the 
child : her beauty had made her foi^t, and yet she 
was now on the very borders of hating her. What 
she might have' done, or rather tried to do, had not 
Peggy's tail struck her down with such force that 
for a moment she could not rise, I cannot tell. 

But while she lay half-stunned, her eyes fell on a 
little flower just under them. It stared up in her 
face like the living thing it was, and she could not 
take her eyes off its face. It was like a primrose 
trying to express doubt instead of confidence. It 
seemed to put her half in mind of something, and 
she felt as if shame were coming. She put out her 
hand to pluck it; but the moment her fingers 
touched it, the flower withered up, and hung as 



A PARABLE. igh 



dead on its stalk as if a flame of fire had passed 
over it 

Then a shudder thrilled through the heart of the 
princess, and she thought with herself, saying — 
•' What sort of a creature am I that the flowers 
wither when I touch them, and the ponies despise 
me with their tails ? What a wretched, coarse,, 
ill-bred creature I must be ! There is that lovely- 
child giving life instead of death to the flowers, and 
a moment ago I was hating her! I am made 
horrid, and I shall be horrid, and I hate myself, and 
yet I can't help being myself! " 

She heard the sound of galloping feet, and there 
was the pony, with the child seated betwixt his wings, 
coming straight on at full speed for where she lay. 

"I don't care," she said. "They may trample 
me under their feet if they like. I am tired and 
sick of myself — a creature at whose touch the- 
flowers wither ! " 



192 THE WISE WOMAN. 



On came the winged pony. But while yet some 
distance off, he gave a great bound, spread out his 
living sails of blue, rose yards and yards above 
her in the air, and alighted as gently as a bird, 
just a few feet on the other side of her. The 
child slipped down and came and kneeled over 
her. 

"Did my pony hurt you ?" she said. "I am so 
sorry!" 

" Yes, he hurt me," answered the princess, " but 
not more than I deserved, for I took liberties with 
him, and he did not like it" 

" Oh, you dear ! " said the little girl. " I love you 
for talking so of my Peggy. He is a good pony, 
though a little playful sometimes. Would you like 
a ride upon him?" 

" You darling beauty!" cried Rosamond, sobbing. 
" I do love you so, you are so good. How did you 
become so sweet?" 




A PARABLE. 1 93 



"Would you like to ride my pony?" repeated 
the child, with a heavenly smile in her eyes, 

" No, no ; he is fit only for you. My clumsy 
body would hurt him," said Rosamond. 

" You don't mind me having such a pony ? " said 
the child. 

"What! mind it?" cried Rosamond, almost 
indignantly. Then remembering certain thoughts 
that had but a few moments before passed through 
her mind, she looked on the gjround and was silent 

" You don't mind it, then ?" repeated the child, 

" I am very glad there is such a you and such a 
pony, and that such a you has got such a pony,** 
said Rosamond, still looking on the ground. " But 
I do wish the flowers would not die when I touch ^ 
them. I was cross to see you make them grow, 
but now I should be content if only I did not make 
them wither." 

As she spoke, she stroked the little girl's bare 



i 



194 THE WISE WOMAN. 



feet, which were by her, half buried in the soft 
moss, and as she ended she laid her cheek on them 
and kissed them. 

" Dear princess," said the little girl, " the 
flowers will not allways wither at your touch. 
Try now — only do not pluck it Flowers ought 
never to be plucked except to give away. Touch 
It gently." 

A silvery flower, something like a snowdrop, 
grew just within her reach. Timidly she stretched 
out her hand and touched it. The flower trem- 
bled, but neither shrank nor withered, 

" Touch it again," said the child. 

It changed colour a little, and Rosamond fancied 
it grew larger. 

" Touch it again," said the child. 

It opened and grew until it was as large as a 
narcissus, and changed and deepened in colour 
till it was a red glowing gold. 



A PARABLE. 1 95 



Rosamond gazed motionless. When the trans- 
figuration of the flower was perfected, she sprang 
to her feet with clasped hands, but for very ecstasy 
of jdy stood speechless, gazing at the child. 

" Did you never see me before, Rosamond ? " she 
asked. 

•* No, never," answered the princess. " I never 
saw anything half so lovely." 

" Look at me," said the child. 

And as Rosamond looked, the child began, like 
the flower, to grow larger. Quickly through every 
gradation of growth she passed, until she stood 
before her a woman perfectly beautiful, neither old 
nor young ; for hers was the old age of everlasting 
youth. 

Rosamond was utterly enchanted, and stood 
gazing without word or movement, until she could 
endure no more delight Then her mind collapsed 
to the thought — had the pony grown too ? She 



10 THE WISE WOMAN. 



glanced round. There was no pony, no grass, no 
flowers, no bright-birded forest — ^but the cottage of 
the wise woman — and before her, on the hearth of 
it, the goddess-child, the only thing unchanged. 

She gasped with astonishment 

" You must set out for your father's palace im- 
mediately," said the lady. 

" But where is the wise woman } " asked Rosa* 
mond, looking all about 

"Here!" said the lady. 

And Rosamond, looking again, saw the wise 
woman, folded as usual in her long dark cloak. 

"It was you, then, after all!" she cried in de- 
light, and kneeled before her, bur}''ing her face in 
her garments. 

" It always is me, after all," said the wise woman, 
smiling. 

"And it was you all the time.?" 

** It always is me all the time*" 



A PARABLE. 1 97 



"But which is the real you ?" asked Rosamond ; 
•* this or that ? - 

" Or a thousand others ? " returned the wise 
woman. " But the one you have just seen is the 
likest to the real me that you are able to see just 
yet — but — . And that me you could not have 
seen a little while ago. — But, my darling child," 
she went on, lifting her up and clasping her to 
her bosom, " you must not think, because you have 
seen me once, that therefore you are capable of 
seeing me at all times. No; there are many 
things in you yet that must be changed before 
that can be. Now, however, you will seek me. 
Every time you feel you want me, that is a sign 
I am wanting you. There are yet many rooms 
in my house you may have to go through ; but 
when you need no more of them, then you will 
be able to throw flowers like the little girl you saw 
in the forest" 



198 THE WISE WOMAN. 



The princess gave a sigh. 

"Do not think," the wise woman went on, 
" that the things you have seen in my house are 
mere empty shows. You do not know; you cannot 
yet think, how living and true they are. Now you 
must go." 

She led her once more into the great hall, and 
there showed her the picture of her father's capital, 
and his palace with the brazen gates. 

" There is your home," she said. " Go to it." 

The princess understood, and a flush of shame 
rose to her forehead. She turned to the wise 
woman and said : — 

" Will you forgive all my naughtiness, and all 
the trouble I have given you ?" 

" If I had not forgiven you, I would never have 
taken the trouble to punish you. If I had not 
loved you, do you think I would have carried you 
away in my cloak ? " 



A PARABLE. 1 99 



" How could you love such an ugly, ill-tem- 
pered, rude, hateful little wretch?" 

" I saw, through it all, what you were going to 
be," said the wise woman, kissing her. " But re- 
member you have yet only begun to be what I saw." 

*'I will try to remember," said the princess, 
holding her cloak, and looking up in her face. 

" Go, then," said the wise woman. 

Rosamond turned away on the instant, ran to 
the picture, stepped over the frame of it, heard a 
door close gently, gave one glance back, saw 
behind her the loveliest palace-front of alabaster, 
gleaming in the pale-yellow light of an early 
summer-morning, looked again to the eastward, 
saw the faint outline of her father's city against 
the sky, and ran off to reach it. 

It looked much further off now than when it 
seemed a picture, but the sun was not yet up, and 
she had the whole of a summer-day before her. 



4 



CHAPTER XIV. 

'T'HE soldiers sent out by the king, had no great 
difficulty in finding Agnes's father and mother, 
of whom they demanded if they knew anything of 
such a young princess as they described. The 
honest pair told them the truth in every point — 
that, having lost their own child and found 
another, they had taken her home, and treated her 
as their own ; that she had indeed called herself a 
princess, but they had not believed her, because she 
did not look like one ; that, even if they had, they 
did not know how they could have done differently, 
seeing they were poor people, who could not afford 



A PARABLE. 201 



to keep any idle person about the place ; that they 
had done their best to teach her good ways, and 
had not parted with her until her bad temper ren- 
dered it impossible to put up with her any longer ; 
that, as to the king's proclamation, they heard 
little of the world's news on their lonely hill, 
and it had never reached them ; that if it had, 
they did not know how either of them could 
have gone such a distance from home, and left 
their sheep or their cottage, one or the other, un- 
cared for. 

" You must learn, then, how both of you can go, 
and your sheep must take care of your cottage," 
said the lawyer, and commanded the soldiers to 
bind them hand and foot 

Heedless of their entreaties to be spared such an 
indignity, the soldiers obeyed, bore them ro a cart, 
and set out for the king's palace, leaving the cot- 
tage door open, the fire burning, the pot of potatoes 



i 



202 THE WISE WOMAN. 

boiling upon it, the sheep scattered over the hill, 
and the dogs not knowing what to do. 

Hardly were they gone, however, before the wise 
woman walked up, with Prince behind her, peeped 
into the cottage, locked the door, put the key in 
her pocket, and then walked away up the hill. In 
a few minutes there arose a great battle between 
Prince and the dog which filled his former place — 
a well-meaning but dull fellow, who could fight 
better than feed. Prince was not long in showing 
him that he was meant for his master, and then, by 
his efforts, and directions to the other dogs, the 
sheep were soon gathered again, and out of danger 
from foxes and bad dogs. As soon as this was 
done, the wise woman left them in charge of 
Prince, while she went to tlie next farm to arrange 
for the folding of the sheep, and the feeding of 
the dogs. 

When the soldiers reached the palace, they were 



A PARABLE. 203 



ordered to carry their prisoners at once into the 
presence of the king and queen, in the throne 
room. Their two thrones stood upon a high dais 
at one end, and on the floor, at the foot of the dais, 
the soldiers laid their helpless prisoners. The 
queen commanded that they should be unbound, 
and ordered them to stand up. They obeyed with 
the dignity of insulted innocence, and their bearing 
offended their foolish majesties. 

Meantime the princess, after a long day*s jour- 
ney, arrived at the palace, and walked up to the 
sentry at the gate. 

" Stand back," said the sentry. 

" I wish to go in, if you please," said the princess 
gently. 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! " laughed the sentry, for he was 
one of those dull people who form their judgment 
from a person's clothes, without even looking in his 
eyes ; and as the princess happened to be in rags, 



204 THE WISK WOMAN. 



her request was amusing, and the booby thought 
himself quite clever for laughing at her so 
thoroughly. 

*' I am the princess," Rosamond said quietly, 

** What princess ? " bellowed the man. 

*'The princess Rosamond. Is there another?* 
she answered and asked. 

But the man was so tickled at the wondrous idea 
of a princess in rags, that he scarcely heard what 
she said for laughing. As soon as he recovered a 
little, he proceeded to chuck the princess under the 
chin, saying — 

"•YouVe a pretty girl, my dear, though you ain't 
no princess." 

Rosamond drew back with dignity. 

" You have spoken three untruths at once," she 
said. " I am not pretty, and I am a princess, and 
if I were dear to you, as I ought to be, you would 
not laugh at me because I am badly dressed, but 



A PARABLE. 205 



stand aside, and let me go to my father and 
mother." 

The tone of her speech, and the rebuke she gave 
him, made the man look at her ; and looking at 
her, he began to tremble inside his foolish body, 
and wonder whether he might not have made a 
mistake. He raised his hand in salute, and said — 

" I beg your pardon, Miss, but I have express 
orders to admit no child whatever within the palace 
gates. They tell me his majesty the king says he 
IS sick of children." 

" He may well be sick of me ! " thought the prin- 
cess ; " but it can't mean that he does not want me 
home again. — I don't think you can very well call me 
a child," she said, looking the sentry full in the face. 

" You ain't very big. Miss," answered the soldier, 
" but so be you say you ain't a child, I'll take the 
risk. The king can only kill me, and a man must 
die once." 



i 



206 THE WISE WOMAN. 

He opened the gate, stepped aside, and allowed 
her to pass. Had she lost her temper, as every one 
but the wise woman would have expected of her, 
he certainly would not have done so. 

She ran into the palace, the door of which had 
been left open by the porter when he followed the 
soldiers and prisoners to the throne-room, and 
bounded up the stairs to look for her father and 
mother. As she passed the door of the throne-room 
she heard an unusual noise in it, and running to 
the king's private entrance, over which hung a 
heavy curtain, she peeped past the edge of it, and 
saw, to her amazement, the shepherd and shep- 
herdess standing like culprits before the king and 
queen, and the same moment heard the king say — 

" Peasants, where is the princess Rosamond ? " 

"Truly, sire, we do not know," answered the 
shepherd. 

" You ought to know," said the king. 



A PARABLE. 207 



" Sire, we could keep her no longer." 

" You confess, then," said the king, suppressing 
the outbreak of the wrath that boiled up in him, 
" that you turned her out of your house ? " 

For the king had been informed by a swift 
messenger of all that had passed long before the 
arrival of the prisoners. 

" We did, sire ; but not only could we keep her 
no longer, but we knew not that she was the 
princess." 

**You ought to have known, the moment you 
cast your eyes upon her," said the king. "Any one 
who does not know a princess the moment he sees 
her, ought to have his eyes put out." 

" Indeed he ought," said the queen. 

To this they returned no answer, for they had 
none ready. 

"Why did you not bring her at once to the 
palace," pursued the king, "whether you knew her 



208 THE WISE WOMAN. 



to be a princess or not ? My proclamation left 
nothing to your judgment It said every child'* 

** We heard nothing of the proclamation, sire." 

" You ought to have heard," said the king. " It 
IS enough that I make proclamations ; it is for you 
to read them. Are they not written in letters of 
gold upon the brazen gates of this palace ? " 

"A poor shepherd, your majesty — ^how often 
must he leave his flock, and go hundreds of miles 
to look whether there may not be something in 
letters of gold upon the brazen gates } We did not 
know that your majesty had made a proclamation, 
or even that the princess was lost." 

" You ought to have known," said the king. 

The shepherd held his peace. 

" But," said the queen, taking up the word, " all 
that is as nothing, when I think how you misused 
the darling." 

The only ground the queen had for saying this, 



A PARABLE. 209 



was what Agnes had told her as to how the princess 
was dressed; and her condition seemed to the 
queen so miserable, that she had imagined all sorts 
of oppression and cruelty. 

But this was more than the shepherdess, who 
had not yet spoken, could bear. 

" She would have been dead, and not buried, long 
ago, madam, if I had not carried her home in my 
two arms." 

"Why does the woman say her two arms ? *' said 
the king to himself. "Has she more than two? 
Is there treason in that ?" 

" You dressed her in cast-off clothes," said the 
queen. 

•' I dressed her in my own sweet child's Sunday 
clothes. And this is what I get for it j " cried the 
shepherdess, bursting into tears. 

" And what did you do with the clothes you took 
off her .> Sell them?" 



2IO TllE WISE WOMAN. 



"Put them in the fire, madam. They were. not 
fit for the poorest child in the mountains. « They 
were so ragged that you could see licr skin tlirpugh 
them in twenty difTcrent places." 

"You cruel woman, to torture a mother's feelings 
so!" cried the queen, and in her .turn burst, into 
tears. 

"And I'm sure," sobbed the sh^pherdes?^ . " I 
took every pains to teach her what it was right for 
her to know. I taught her to tidy the house,, 
and " 

" Tidy the house ! " moaned the queen. " My 
poor wretched offspring ! " 

" And peel the potatoes, and — 



»» 



" Peel the potatoes ! " cried the queen, " Oh,, 
horror ! " 

" And black her master's boots," aaid the sfecp- 
hcrdess. 

" Elack her master's hoots ! " shrieked the queeru 




A PARABLE. 2 1 1 



" Oh, my whitG-handed princess ! Oh, my ruined 
baby!" 

" What I want to know," said the king, paying 
no heed to this maternal duel, but patting the top 
of his sceptre as if it had been the hilt of a sword 
which he was about to draw, " is, where tlic princess 



is now." 



The shepherd made no answer, for he had nothing 
to say more than he had said already. 

"You have murdered her!" shouted the king. 
** You shall be tortured till you confess the truth ; 
and then you shall be tortured to death, for you 
are the most abominable wretches in the whole 
v.ide world." 

" Who accuses me of crime .^" cried the shepherJ., 
indignant 

" I accuse you," said the king ; " but you shall 
see, face, to face, the chief witness to your villainy. 
Ofiicer, bring the girl." 



212 TH2 WISE WOMAN. 



Silence filled the hall while they waited. The 
king's face was swollen with anger. The queen hid 
hers behind her handkerchief. The shepherd and 
shepherdess bent their eyes on the ground, wonder- 
ing. It was with difficulty Rosamond could keep 
her place, but so wise had she already become that 
she saw it would be far better to let everything 
come out before she interfered. 

At length the door opened, and in came the 
officer, followed by Agnes, looking white as death, 
and mean as sin. 

"The shepherdess gave a shriek, and darted 
towards her with arms spread wide ; the shepherd 
followed, but not so eagerly, 

"My child! my lost darling ! my Agnes!" cried 
the shepherdess. 

" Hold them asunder," shouted the king. "Here 
is more villainy ! " What ! have I a scullery-maid 
in my house born of such parents ? The parents 



\ 



A PARABLE. 213 



of such a child must be capable of anything. Take 
all three of them to the rack. Stretch them till 
their joints are torn asunder, and give them no 
water. Away with them ! " 

The soldiers approached to lay hands on them. 
But, behold ! a girl, all in rags, with such a radiant 
countenance that it was right lovely to see, darted 
between, and careless of the royal presence, flung 
herself upon the shepherdess, crying, — 

"Do not touch her. She is my good, kind 
mistress." 

But the shepherdess could hear or see no one but 
her Agnes, and pushed her away. Then the princess 
turned, with the tears in her eyes, to the shepherd, 
and thiew her arms about his neck and pulled 
down his head and kissed him. And the tall shep- 
herd lifted her to his bosom and kept her there, 
but his eyes were fixed on his Agnes. 

" What is the meaning of this } " cried the king, 



214 THE WISE WOMAN. 



Starting up from his throne. "How did that 
ragged girl get in here ? Take her away with the 
rest She is one of them, too." 

But the princess made the shepherd set her 
down, and before any one could interfere she had 
run up the steps of the dais and then the steps 
of the king s throne like a squirrel, flung herself 
upon the king, and begun to smother him with 
kisses. 

All stood astonished, except the three peasants, 
who did not even see what took place. The 
shepherdess kept calling to her Agnes, but she was 
so ashamed that she did not dare even lift her eyes 
to meet her mother's, and the shepherd kept gazing 
on her in silence. As for the king, he was so 
breathless and aghast with astonishment, that he ' 
was too feeble to fling the ragged child from him 
as he tried to do. But she left him, and running 
down the steps of the one throne and up those of 



A PARABLE. 21 5 



the other, began kissing the queen next But the 
queen cried out, — 

" Get away, you great rude child ! — Will nobody 
take her to the rack ? " 

Then the princess, hardly knowing what she did 
for joy that she had come in time, ran down the 
steps of the throne and the dais, and placing herself 
between the shepherd and shepherdess, took ^a hand 
of each, and stood looking at the king and queen. 



I 



CHAPTER XV. 

T^HEIR faces began to change. At last they 
began to know her. But she was so altered — so 
lovelily altered, that it was no wonder they should 
not have known her at the first glance ; but it was 
the fault of the pride and anger and injustice with 
which their hearts were filled, that they did not 
know her at the second. 

The king gazed and the queen gazed, both half 
risen from their thrones, and looking as if about to 
tumble down upon her, if only they could be right 
sure that the ragged girl was their own child. A 
mistake would be such a dreadful thing ! 




A PARABLE. 21/ 



"My darling!" at last shrieked the mother, a 
little doubtfully, 

" My pet of pets ! " cried the father, with an 
interrogative twist of tone. 

Another moment, and they were half way down 
the steps of the dais. 

" Stop ! " said a voice of command from some- 
where in the hall, and, king and queen as they 
were, they stopped at once half way, then drew 
themselves up, stared, and began to grow angry 
again, but durst not go farther. 

The wise woman was coming slowly up through 
the crowd that filled the hall. Every one made 
way for her. She came straight on until she stood 
in front of the king and queen. 

'* Miserable man and woman ! " she said, in 
words they alone could hear, "I took your daughter 
away when she was worthy of such parents ; I 
bring her back, and they are unworthy of her. 



i 



2l8 THE WISE WOMAN. 



That you did not know her when she came to you 
IS a small wonder, for you have been blind in soul ' 
all your lives : now be blind in body until your 
better eyes are unsealed." 

She threw her cloak open. It fell to the ground, 
and the radiance that flashed from her robe of 
snowy whiteness, from her face of awful beauty, 
arid from her eyes that shone like pools of sunlightV 
smote them blind. 

Rosamond saw them give a great start, shudder, 
waver to and fro, then sit down on the steps of the 
dais ; and she knew they were punished, but knew 
not how. She rushed up to them, and catching a 
hand of each, said — 

" Father, dear father ! mother dear ! I will ask 
the wise woman to forgive you." 

" Oh, I am blind ! I am blind ! " they cried 
together. " Dark as night ! Stone blind ! " 

Rosamond left them, sprang down the steps, and 



^ 



A PARABLE. 219 



kneeling at her feet, cried, "Oh, my lovely wise 
woman ! do let theni see. Do open their eyes, 
dear, good, wise woman T' 

The wise woman bent down to her, and said, so 
that none else could hear, — 

" I will one day. Meanwhile you must be their 
servant, as I have been yours. Bring them to me, 
and I will make them welcome." 

Rosamond rose, went up the steps again to her 
father and motlier, where they sat like statues with 
closed eyes, half-way from the top of the dais where 
stood their empty thrones, seated herself between 
them, took a hand of each, and was still. 

All this time very few in the room saw the wise 
woman. The moment she threw off her cloak she 
vanished from the sight of almost all who were 
present. The woman who swept and dusted the 
hall and brushed the thrones, saw her, and the 
shepherd had a glimmering vision of her ; but no 



/ 



220 THE WISE WOMAN. 

one else that I know of caught a glimpse of her. 
The shepherdess did not see her. Nor did Agnes, 
but she felt her presence upon her like the heat of 
a furnace seven times heated. 

As soon as Rosamond had taken her place 
between her father and mother, the wise woman 
lifted her cloak from the floor, and threw it again 
around her. Then everybody saw her, and Agnes 
felt as if a soft dewy cloud had come between her 
and the torrid rays of a vertical sun. The wise 
woman turned to the shepherd and shepherdess. 

" For you," she said, " you are sufficiently pun- 
ished by the work of your own hands. Instead of 
making your daughter obey you, you left her to be 
a slave to herself; you coaxed when you ought 
to have compelled ; you praised when you ought 
to have been silent ; you fondled when you ought 
to have punished ; you threatened when you ought 
to have inflicted — and there she stands, the full- 



A PARABLE. 221 



grown result of your foolishness ! She is your 
crime and your punishment. Take her home with 
you, and live hour after hour with the pale-hearted 
disgrace you call your daughter. What she ig, the 
worm at her heart has begun to teach her. When 
life is no longer endurable, come to me." 

"Madam," said the shepherd, "may I not go 
with you now ? " 

"You shall," said the wise woman. 

"Husband! husband!" cried the shepherdess, 
*how are we two to get home without you ? " 

" I will see to that," said the wise woman. " But 
little of home you will find it until you have come 
to me. The king carried you hither, and he shall 
carry you back. But your husband shall not go 
with you. He cannot now if he would." 

The shepherdess looked, and saw that the shep- 
herd stood in a deep sleep. She went to him and 
sought to rouse him, but neither tongue nor hands 
were of the slightest avail 



/ 



222 THE WISF WOilAX. 



The wise woman turned to Rosamond. 

" My child," she said, " I shall never be far from 
you. Come to me when you will. Bring them to 
me. 

Rosamond smiled and kissed her hand, but kept 
her place by her parents. They also were now in 
a deep sleep like the shepherd. 

The wise woman too!: the shepherd by the hand, 
and led him away. 

" And that is all my double story. How double 
it is, if you care to know, you must find out. If 
you think it is not finished — I never knew a story 
that was. I could tell you a great deal more 
concerning them all, but I have already told more 
than is good for those who road but with their 
foreheads, and enough for those whom it has made 
look a little solemn, and sigh as they v:lo.se the 
book. 



i 



214 THE WISE WOMAX. 



Starting up from his throne. "How did that 
ragged girl get in here ? Take her away with the 
rest She is one of them, too." 

But the princess made the shepherd set her 
down, and before any one could interfere she had 
run up the steps of the dais and then the steps 
of the king s throne like a squirrel, flung herself 
upon the king, and beg^n to smother him with 
kisses. 

All stood astonished, except the three peasants, 
who did not even see what took place. The 
shepherdess kept calling to her Agnes, but she was 
so ashamed that she did not dare even lift her eyes 
to meet her mother's, and the shepherd kept gazing 
on her in silence. As for the king, he was so 
breathless and aghast with astonishment, that he ' 
was too feeble to fling the ragged child from him 
as he tried to do. But she left him, and running 
down the steps of the one throne and up those of 



A PARABLE. 2I5 



the Other, began kissing the queen next. But the 
queen cried out, — 

" Get away, you great rude child ! — Will nobody 
take her to the rack ? " 

Then the princess, hardly knowing what she did 
for joy that she had come in time, ran down the 
steps of the throne and the dais, and placing herself 
between the shepherd and shepherdess, took 'a hand 
of each, and stood looking at the king and queen. 



CHAPTER XV. 

T^HEIR faces began to change. At last they 
began to know her. But she was so altered — so 
lovelily altered, that it was no wonder they should 
not have known her at the first glance ; but it was 
the fault of the pride and anger and injustice with 
which their hearts were filled, that they did not 
know her at the second. 

The king gazed and the queen gazed, both half 
risen from their thrones, and looking as if about to 
tumble down upon her, if only they could be right 
sure that the ragged girl was their own child. A 
mistake would be such a dreadful thing ! 



A PARABLE. 21/ 



"My darling!" at last shrieked the mother, a 
little doubtfully. 

" My pet of pets ! " cried the father, with an 
interrogative twist of tone. 

Another moment, and they were half way down 
the steps of the dais. 

" Stop ! " said a voice of command from some- 
where in the hall, and, king and queen as they 
were, they stopped at once half way, then drew 
themselves up, stared, and began to grow angry 
again, but durst not go farther. 

The wise woman was coming slowly up through 
the crowd that filled the hall. Every one made 
way for her. She came straight on until she stood 
in front of the king and queen. 

" Miserable man and woman ! " she said, in 
words they alone could hear, "I took your daughter 
away when she was worthy of such parents ; I 
bring her back, and they are unworthy of her.